A message to Keep Our NHS Members from Dr Tony O’Sullivan, KONP’s new Co-Chair
Within 3 days of my being elected as co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, alongside Keith Venables and the rest of the new executive, KONP nationally and my local group Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign faced another challenge.
Tuesday 15 December saw the major announcement from George Osborne of the next round of devolution of health budgets to local authorities in London. Lewisham is one of the five ‘pilots’ announced with fanfare. This dangerous development was introduced with stealth up to that point, as is now usual, with dubious legitimacy, and no meaningful public consultation.
As the NHS faces a financial challenge of being £22 billion short of funding annually by 2019/20, local NHS budgets will be merged with local authorities (LA) who have been forced to savage their social care budgets. In Lewisham, for example, the LA services budget has already been cut by 31%. The LA now faces its entire contribution from central government being reduced to zero by 2018/19 from £208.1 million in 2013/14!
Two sets of underfunded services, each facing intense financial pressures never before seen, will come together to struggle to maintain any safe services, let alone the idealistic picture of “fully functional integrated services”. This deceptive claim is used by Central Government as a cover whilst “washing its hands” of responsibility and getting ready to attack anything that goes wrong when under-funded public services desperately struggle to meet escalating need. The same risks and dangers will be repeated across the capital city.
Keep Our NHS Public has a major responsibility, along with its allies campaigning for the NHS (including over 20 affiliates to Health Campaigns Together) to develop briefings, respond nationally, and help local campaigners react locally to such events. As great a responsibility as we have every had.
I look forward to working with you all in helping KONP to mount a fighting response in 2016 and, with our allies, to fight back to save our NHS.
I hope everyone can enjoy some restful time over the holiday period. Best wishes to us all for 2016.
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign