Somerset NHS plans must be more than emergency surgery

NHS plans must have time and money to be more than emergency surgery, says UNISON

Commenting on Sustainability and Transformation Plans released by Somerset health employers today, UNISON South West head of health Helen Eccles said:

“There is a real urgency to deal with the problems facing our NHS; on current forecasts the deficit in Somerset will only continue to rise, from £33m this year to £600m by 2021. Our health and social care services simply cannot keep up with demand if the government does not put in more resources.

“Ever-higher demand and the crisis in social care means so-called “transformation” money is being used to prop up existing services, instead of funding a “sustainability” redesign. The government has demanded ambitious plans but completely closed its eyes to the reality on the ground.”

UNISON regional organiser for Somerset Jon Dunn added:

“Somerset health employers have come up with a plan that we can get behind – in theory. We want to work together with employers to deliver preventative, joined up services to deal with the predicted 30% rise in the elderly population, public health problems, and the challenges of a rural area.

“But the fact is, nobody on the frontline thinks it can be done while the government starves services of money and insists on breakneck-speed of radical reform, without meaningful public engagement and consultation. In Somerset we’re pleased that NHS employers have promised to work in partnership with staff and trade unions, but the government has set a totally unrealistic timescale and ignored the huge funding crisis.

“We are dealing with people’s health here – it is too important to rush, but the government has its head in the sand over the time and money required to build an NHS that serves Somerset into the future.”

Health challenges highlighted in the STP include:

– Somerset’s aging population (10.4% of population is over 75, compared to English average of 7.8%)

– Lower than average working age population, especially in the 20-40 year age range

– 48% of the population lives in rural areas, and Somerset has no large cities nor universities

– 5% higher than national average acute health spend (£662 per head)

– 13% higher than average permanent admissions to nursing homes

– 10% higher than average obesity among adults and children, higher numbers of injuries due to falls among those aged 65+

Somerset has been a “vanguard” area testing a new healthcare programme called “Symphony”. This aims to procide more care in primary care settings (i.e. GPs) that previously would have delivered by acute providers (i.e. emergency hospitals). The programme has met wide support among staff but is limited by difficulty recruiting GPs.