‘It’s all about the NHS shutting its doors’: Hackney GP slams STP plan

Dr Coral Jones (right) at a Hackney Save Our Surgeries protest in 2014.

Dr Coral Jones (right) at a Hackney Save Our Surgeries protest in 2014. - Credit: Archant

A senior Hackney GP and union chief has slammed plans to plug a funding gap of £444m in north-east London’s health bill by 2021.

NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) is dividing England into 44 “footprints” and will see Hackney linked up with seven other local authority areas in the north-east London (NEL) STP.

The NEL STP draft document was “published” in June for viewing by the NHS “improvement” team – but only made public last week.

It is acknowledged that the NEL STP population is set to grow by 18 per cent in the next 15 years, while five out of the eight boroughs are the most deprived in the UK.

Part of the plan is to reduce the “burden” on NHS services through promoting prevention and self-care, by addressing issues like childhood obesity and smoking. “Motivating people to take ownership of their health is crucial to our system vision,” it states.

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But Hackney GP and honorary secretary of Hackney’s British Medical Association, Coral Jones, is worried, and think the reference to self-care is “all about the NHS shutting its doors”.

“The document’s whole premise overlooks the fact that the main thing which affects people’s health is deprivation,” she said. “Over the last six years austerity has driven more and more children into poverty, 900,000 people are on zero hours contracts – which means insecure employment – and there’s a housing crisis going on.

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“My main worry is the NHS is already grossly underfunded, and they say we are going to cut funding, degrade staff, deskill staff – and that’s going to improve outcomes?”

A spokesman for NHS England said that the estimated funding gap of £444m by 2021 would exist despite an extra £400m to fund the service.

He added: “With the right support people can improve their health – for instance, by stopping smoking or being more active. We need to focus on prevention, supporting people to keep well and empowering them to look after their own health, rather than only treating them when they become ill.”

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