NHS campaigners in South Yorkshire are worried that a major review of health and social care in the region will mean cuts to hospital services.
For the last 15 months, health bosses have been working together on creating a new ‘integrated care system’ (ICS) across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
Part of this review has been looking at how hospitals in the region could work more closely together in five key services: urgent and emergency care, maternity, care of seriously-ill children, stroke and gastroenterology and endoscopy.
However, campaigners say the difficulty is getting clear answers from health bosses and the ‘secretive’ way the review is happening gives them no confidence that it anything more than a cost-cutting exercise.
They are planning a series of public meetings to raise awareness of the changes, the first of which took place today at Barnsley Town Hall (Saturday, October 26).
Nora Everitt, secretary of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw NHS Action Group, said: “There is so much secrecy in the way the ICS is working towards an admitted 'rapid pace of change' we feel it is undemocratic and that they are not listening to the concerns of the NHS frontline staff or the public.”
“Service changes are already happening in stroke services and children’s services and we know there are now clear proposals to change maternity services too.”
“We agree that we all need high quality and safe services but not done this way. What's needed is a universal free NHS that is fully integrated with social care services and fully funded by our taxes.”
The independent review - which was published in May - says that at the moment the NHS does not have enough staff to care for patient needs, some patients get better care than others and the system is too slow to change and bring in new ideas.
It recommends that every place should continue to have its own hospital, but that in order to continue to offer high quality care to patients throughout the area, services will need to work more closely with each other.
However, the campaigners say this will inevitably mean some areas like Barnsley losing services in maternity or pediatrics as they are consolidated to larger population centres.
Professor Des Breen, medical director for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System, said he wanted to make clear that there were ‘no current proposals’ to change any services in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
He said: “We know there are different ways of working that would not change the way patients access their care and we are keen to explore these so that we can continue to deliver the best care for everyone in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
“Over the coming months we will be working with our local hospitals, staff, patients and the public to develop our thinking further.
“If any proposals to change services are made, we would not expect proposals to be put forward until this time next year, if at all.”