Newham campaigners oppose radical healthcare proposal

From left to right, Andy Walker, Mary Burnett, Ron Singer and Jan Blake at a meeting of campaign gro

From left to right, Andy Walker, Mary Burnett, Ron Singer and Jan Blake at a meeting of campaign group Newham Save Our NHS at St. John's Church, Stratford. - Credit: Archant

A campaign group has urged Newham Council to reject radical proposals to transform healthcare.

Speaking at a public meeting in St. John’s Church, Stratford, on Wednesday, “Newham Save Our NHS” campaigner and retired GP Ron Singer said the NHS plan to improve services for patients is “a recipe for disaster”.

In a national restructuring of healthcare provision, 44 areas, known as “footprints”, have been formed with councils and NHS bodies asked to reach plans to improve care.

In its “footprint” Newham joins seven other boroughs in north east London including Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Tower Hamlets and Redbridge.

Under the draft proposals, drawn up by members of the North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan, GPs would take a lead in developing out of hospital healthcare to free up hospital beds “for those who really need admission”. Those with mental health problems would receive care “as close to home as possible” and a range of measures would be introduced to “step up” prevention tackling problems such as obesity.

Campaigners said the population covered by the “footprint” area is predicted to grow by 345,000 with no plans to build another hospital to meet future demand. They also warned the closure of the Accident and Emergency department at nearby King George Hospital will put more strain on Newham and Whips Cross hospitals.

Retired midwife and campaigner Jan Blake, who addressed an audience of about 30 people, said: “Newham has a poor GP service. We’re going to be really running into trouble with an STP plan which relies on GPs.”

Most Read

Ron added: “The cascading of patients away from hospitals is a recipe for disaster.”

At the end of the two hour long meeting, a motion was passed calling on the council to refuse to give its blessing to the NEL STP describing it “as not in the interests of Newham residents”.

In response, an NHS spokesman said: “Rather than just commenting from the sidelines, local health and care leaders and clinicians are coming together to actually try and solve some deep-seated problems by identifying practical ways to improve services.

“Yes, there are well known pressures and constraints facing the NHS, but for patients’ sake we should obviously all try and make the best of the situation, rather than just stand to one side and say ‘well I wouldn’t start from here’.”

Councillor Clive Furness, mayoral advisor for adults and health, said: “No decision or commitment has yet been made by Newham to sign up to the terms of a North East London STP.

“At this stage Newham is in discussion with other councils, clinical commissioning groups and NHS partners in North East London to ensure the process of developing the STP is considered and reflects the views and needs of the council and, importantly, Newham’s residents.

“We believe that at the present time it is important to continue to engage in this process so that we have influence over the content, understand the key issues and identify any areas that we require further clarification on and ensure that any unsuitable proposals are not rushed through without proper scrutiny.

“The changing shape of services signalled by the STP will be felt differently in each borough.

“We will be robust and challenging in our approach to fully understand the impact on local people, but if we feel the needs of our residents are being overlooked we will be clear in our opposition to the plans.”

A council spokesman confirmed the campaigners will be invited to speak to councillors on March 7.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter