Concerns over transparency as public get their first say on plans for Norfolk and Waveney’s healthcare overhaul
PUBLISHED: 22:06 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 22:15 17 July 2017
“We need a bit of honesty” - that was the message given by many who attended a lively Question Time-style event designed to shed light on the health overhaul for Norfolk and Waveney.
But the newly-appointed independent chairman of the Sustainability and Transformation (STP) plan for the area, Patricia Hewitt, insisted there were no secret plans, but that the process was just in early days.
MORE: More home births and merging services between three major Norfolk hospitals: How local NHS revolution will affect YOU
Health chiefs in the region have earmarked £300m of savings between now and 2021 as the cash squeeze tightens and demand for services increases. They have also come up with £150m of proposed investment under their STP.
But despite initial announcements last year, this evening (Monday) was the first chance the public had to quiz the big names involved at an event held by consumer champion Healthwatch Norfolk.
MORE: Hospital closures ruled out by NHS chiefs as councillors discuss new health plan
A panel of made up of bosses from NHS trusts, commissioners and frontline staff took pre-submitted questions from the audience, but also responded to on-the-night queries. However some responses were greeted with heckles and boos from an audience who felt the process was not transparent.
Questions ranged from taking on the subject of PFI, to privatisation, to the provision of mental health care.
But some felt promising to deliver a more integrated and better-performing service was impossible while also having to make cuts.
MORE: Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt appointed to guide Norfolk and Waveney through healthcare revolution
Harry Seddon, a member of union Unison at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), said: “The problem is integration may be a good thing and working together has got the potential to be a really good thing. My question is whether that is foredoomed because you have got so much money to save?”
Another audience member said: “We need a bit of honesty”. While another added it just didn’t feel like the process was transparent.
However, former health secretary Mrs Hewitt - who was appointed last month - said: “The STP is very young, these are early days.
“There are some parts of the country where the STP was built around an informal partnership which had been working together for years. We did not have that here. So we are starting behind where some others have started. It’s not a secretive process, it’s simply early days.”
MORE: ‘More detail needed in region’s new health plan’ - Norman Lamb writes to project leader
William Armstrong, chairman of Healthwatch Norfolk, said they would look to hold a similar event in six months time.
Speaking after the meeting, Jan McLachlan from the NHS Norfolk Action Group, said the event had been as she had expected.
The group was one of those protesting outside before the meeting.
Ms McLachlan said: “I felt the best contributions came from people in the audience who worked in the NHS. It’s disappointing because it feels like a box ticking exercise, the best thing was the people in the audience got to hear each other speak.”
Mr Armstrong said: “I think it went well because it was a range of views. We’re trying to make this process transparent.”