Campaigners demand more scrutiny of health service shake-up

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Health campaigners are calling for more scrutiny of “secretive” plans to cut millions of pounds from NHS and social care budgets.

In a letter signed by more than 250 people they have urged a council watchdog to investigate the five-year plan to re-organise health services in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) was drawn up last autumn to address a funding gap expected to reach £1bn a year by 2021.

West Yorkshire is one of 44 areas in England where health and social care organisations were required by the government to come up with an STP plan.

Campaigners claim that crucial details of possible job cuts and closures of NHS services are being kept secret.

Their letter, signed by trade unionists, NHS workers and patients, was handed to the West Yorkshire Joint Health Scrutiny Committee in Leeds.

Calderdale NHS campaigner Jenny Shepherd said the scrutiny committee had not met for five months.

She said: “The committee has the power, and the duty to use that power, to stop any significant NHS changes that would damage the health interests of the public and the NHS itself.

“I can’t understand why they haven’t met since March and why they have no scheduled meetings coming up, when basically our NHS is being dismantled, patients are finding it harder and harder to access all kinds of vital treatments.”

Health bosses have insisted the STP plan will improve NHS and social care services for 2.6m people in the West Yorkshire and Harrogate area.

It includes plans to cut the number of patients being treated in hospitals and tackle long-term health conditions which are a drag on NHS budgets.

The STP area, which covers Bradford, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield, will face a budget gap of £1.07bn a year if no action is taken to cut costs, it is estimated.