Campaigners warned yesterday that profit-hungry Jeremy Hunt’s decision to dissolve troubled Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation trust was all about making cuts — not improving the health service.
The cuts-crazed Health Secretary dramatically announced that Mid Staffs would be dissolved, moving key services to neighbouring hospitals.
Overall control of Stafford Hospital will be passed to University Hospital of North Staffordshire, almost 20 miles away, while Cannock Hospital will be run by Royal Wolverhampton Trust, nearly 10 miles away.
Health watchdog Monitor approved plans in January drawn up by administrators to downgrade some services at Stafford Hospital, despite opposition from local campaigners.
But Mr Hunt stopped short of closing Stafford hospital’s consultant-led maternity services outright, as administrators had urged, agreeing for NHS England to carry out a review into the unit.
NHS England’s review will decide whether consultant-led maternity services — needed for more difficult births — should be retained.
The cuts plans seize on the public outcry following a 2009 investigation by the Healthcare Commission which claimed between 400 and 1,200 more people had died at Stafford Hospital than would have been expected.
But director of Health Emergency campaign group John Lister warned the downgrading announced yesterday was actually “all about making cuts” in light of the Nicholson Challenge, which requires the NHS to make £20 billion savings by next year.
Mr Lister told the Star: “This will be bad news for local patients who will now find themselves having to travel however many miles to be treated.”
Last year’s Francis Inquiry then unearthed “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” with some patients left lying in their own faeces for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.
In December, trust special administrators said the overall trust was “unsustainable” and that without changes Mid Staffordshire would face annual debts of more than £40 million by 2017.
Under the plans announced by Mr Hunt, paediatric assessment will still take place at Stafford Hospital by specialist staff, in conjunction with A&E, and critical patients will be allowed to stay overnight in Stafford as long as the appropriate staff are on duty.
The Health Secretary said the Department of Health did have to provide over £20m in subsidy funding to Mid Staffs trust in 2012 and 2013.
Campaign group Support Stafford Hospital Sue Hawkins welcomed the retention of consultant-led maternity services but argued “you can apply equally the same argument of patient safety used to justify that rethink to paediatric care.
“So we would ask for the downgrade of paediatrics to be reconsidered as well.”
Unison head of health Christina McAnea added: “If key services are to be transferred to neighbouring trusts, it is vital that they are given the financial resources needed to take on the extra responsibility.”
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