Patients could die because of Tory plans to close hundreds of hospital departments, a top NHS boss has admitted.
Shocking new footage shows Laura Nicholas making the admission at a public meeting in Braunton, North Devon.
“You say that if an ambulance has to drive past a hospital to go somewhere else, someone may die,” she said.
“That may be the case, but we have to balance that against the whole range of other people who may not have access to any services at all”
The Tories are imposing local Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) on the NHS in England, dividing it into 44 “footprints” and slashing £22 billion by 2020.
As new Devon Clinical Commissioning Group director of strategy, Nicholas has taken a lead in drafting the region’s STP. Her comments were made at a meeting last December, called in response local NHS budget cuts but where people demanded she answer questions about the Tories’ STPs.
Dave Clinch of the Save Our Hospital Services campaign in Devon told Socialist Worker, “I can’t believe that Nicholas would want to play one death off against another. We’ve said all along that people will die—and now Nicholas has pretty much admitted that.”
Devon has already been hit by NHS boss Simon Steven’s “Success Regime”. Its “A Case for Change” report said that accident and emergency, children’s, maternity and stroke services could be removed from North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.
These plans have now been incorporated into the local STP.
Under the cover of a drive to centralise acute services and improve patient care, the STPs’ real purpose is to slash services across the board. This includes cutting £557 million from Devon’s health and social care budget.
Patients will be forced to travel to the nearest hospital in Exeter—around 40 miles from Torrington, 50 miles from Barnstaple and 80 miles from Lynton.
Dave said, “With a stroke patient, for example, the first hour can be critical. But from somewhere north of Barnstaple the journey to Exeter takes around 1 hour 45 minutes.”
Nicholas’ comments show that this will only get worse if the Tories succeed in pushing through their STP plans.
But there has been growing resistance to the STPs, with local groups springing up to oppose them.
The national demonstration on Saturday 4 March, called by Health Campaigns Together, is an opportunity to unite the fights and push back the Tories’ assault on the NHS.