Plan to plug £1bn funding gap for West Yorkshire NHS ‘unworkable’

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A five-year plan to plug a £1bn gap in health funding has been branded “unworkable” after it emerged that vast sums of money will be needed.

A wide-ranging reorganisation of NHS and social care in West Yorkshire and Harrogate will cost more than £730m, newly-released figures show.

These plans are fast becoming completely unworkable

Dr Mark Porter

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) is being drawn up to plug the budget deficit and improve the health of the 2.6m population between now and 2020-21.

But fears have been raised that the plan cannot be delivered because health organisations will be starved of the funds to carry out building projects and improvements to community facilities

Figures obtained by the British Medical Association (BMA) show that £732m of capital funding will be needed for the West Yorkshire STP, which includes plans to cut A&E attendances and treat more patients outside of hospitals.

The BMA’s Dr Mark Porter said: “From its very beginning this process was carried out largely behind closed doors, by rushed health and social care leaders trying to develop impossible plans for the future while struggling to keep the NHS from the brink of collapse.

“These figures are especially concerning given that everyone can see a huge crisis unfolding within our NHS, with record numbers of trusts and GP practices raising the alarm to say they already can’t cope.

“The NHS is at breaking point and the STP process could have offered a chance to deal with some of the problems that the NHS is facing, like unnecessary competition, expensive fragmentation and buildings and equipment often unfit for purpose, but there is clearly nowhere near the funding required to carry out these plans.”

The BMA’s figures suggest West Yorkshire and Harrogate would be the third most costly of England’s 44 STP projects.

Nationally, at least £9.5bn would be needed to successfully carry out the STP plans.

The BMA said it was unlikely NHS organisations would have all the cash they need because capital budgets were already being raided to cover revenue costs, including hospital repairs and maintenance.

Dr Porter said: “These plans are fast becoming completely unworkable and have instead revealed a health service that is unsustainable without urgent further investment, and with little capacity to transform in any meaningful way other than by reducing the provision of services on a drastic scale.”

A spokesman for NHS England said it was no secret that savings had to be made for the health service to keep to the budget set by parliament.

He added: “But it is missing the point to suggest that STPs are all about saving money.

“They are a big opportunity to improve the care that patients receive, based on the experience of areas who are performing best, and practical things that doctors and nurses have been telling us for years.”

The STP plan could see a reduction in the number of specialist stroke units in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

Plans were already being drawn up to centralise accident and emergency departments at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals.

Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield will become Mid Yorkshire’s main A&E department.

The A&E at Dewsbury and District Hospital will become an urgent care centre treating minor ailments.

Calderdale Royal Hospital could also become the central A&E department for Halifax and Huddersfield.