An open letter to Sarah Wollaston, formerly Totnes MP

On July 1st, the NHS in England will be divided into 42 new bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS). Our local system, under a Board of Directors led by Sarah Wollaston, will have to provide care for people in our area within a severely restricted budget set by central government.

For almost a decade, decisions about what NHS services are available in each area have been made by local bodies made up of senior medics and NHS administrators, with scrutiny by local councillors. Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), on the other hand, can include almost anyone with a stake in health and care, including private companies who have a financial interest. In some places, private providers already help to decide how local budgets are spent.

Devon campaign group Save Our Hospital Services (SOHS) is concerned that the combination of restricted budgets and removal of local accountability will mean more crisis, disruption, and privatisation in our health service. However, this does not have to be the case. Instead of ‘rationalising’ services into fewer and fewer big hospitals, we ask that the needs of local patients are put first. The closure of community hospitals, minor injury units and clinics must end. Care should be available close to the communities that need it. The crisis in our local health and care workforce needs to be addressed with proper planning, decent pay, and free training. GPs must get the support they need to treat people out of hours. Welcome though they are, the promised upgrades to some local health hubs are only window dressing – after a decade of neglect they are the bare minimum to bring old buildings up to date. And they are yet another opportunity to bring private interests and profit making into the NHS. It is NHS staff who care for patients, not building projects or new IT systems.

SOHS are writing to local papers across Devon with a public plea to the newly appointed ICS Devon Board Chair, Sarah Wollaston. We ask her not to bring people who work for private companies onto the Devon ICB. We ask her not to let private companies take over more NHS services such as diagnostics and mental health, making profit from sickness and reducing the money available for care. Sarah Wollaston has the power to ensure that the NHS continues to provide outstanding care to everyone, as it has for more than 75 years. She must not allow a decade of decline to become a death spiral.

Spokesperson for SOHS, Rosie Haworth-Booth, says “With a large family of my own, I have had many years’ experience of NHS care and I know how brilliantly it copes, even under terrible constraints. Please Sarah Wollaston, give the NHS the priority it deserves.

Save Our Hospital Services
Affiliated with Health Campaigns Together.