Watchdog chairman voices fears for the future of the NHS in Lancashire

The Save Chorley Hospital group gathers ahead of its  London protest to demand the town's A&E department reopens as a 24-hour unit

The Save Chorley Hospital group gathers ahead of its London protest to demand the town's A&E department reopens as a 24-hour unit

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Fear that changes in the delivery of health services in Lancashire and South Cumbria could lead to services being privatised led to a frank exchange of views at a health watchdog meeting.

The issue was raised at Lancashire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Commitee meeting at County Hall yesterday.

Coun Steve Holgate

Coun Steve Holgate

Chairman Coun Steve Holgate signalled he was running out of patience with the lack of detailed information available about the new “Sustainability and Transformation Plan” for the two counties and demanded his committee was represented in future discussion and development of such plans.

He said: “There are concerns that the NHS is being shunted in a way that makes it more easy to be privatised. All the time the detail is missing from what the new NHS is going to look like in terms of delivery. That perpetuates that concern. It’s really important we have some assurances that’s not the case and some assurances it’s not open to interlopers.”

But his plea met with a warning from Sam Nicol, Programme Director of the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria Change Progamme that change was necessary.

She said: “We cannot continue to deliver services in the way we are delivering them.”

Noting many people were living with one or more long term conditions and the growing gap between demand and funding she said: “We already have a very sick population.”

Part of the change would be getting people to manage their own health better and being supported with integrated health services: “We can’t deliver everything. We have to be bespoke and specific...We have to use every asset we’ve got.”

There would still be a need for local hospitals and services but there needed to be changes in how patients are supported,with services such as community pharmacies and the local voluntary sector having key roles.

The next two financial years from 2017/18 to 2018/19 would be a “big challenge both from a health and social care perspective.”

Coun Holgate reminded the commitee of concerns over staffing, citing the closure of Chorley hospital’s accident and emergency unit as an indication of the impact of staff shortages. Campaigners recently took a protest bus down to London to highlight this.