Over the last week I’ve been digesting the last change of the ‘ACS’ (or is it ACO’) to the ‘ICO’ in our NHS and how this relates to the STPs and CCGs. I’ve come to the conclusion it is a branding exercise and the fundamental issues haven’t changed.
If you are confused, you’ve got to feel for the doctors, nurses and other front line staff who are desperately trying to keep our NHS alive while the reality is that however the numbers are dressed up we have a health secretary who is known to believe that a US-style insurance model would be better, and a health service that is being starved of funds.
Earlier this week I met with the local leadership of our clinical commissioning groups – the people who run our doctor’s surgeries – and I admit I remain concerned about the future. We know that South Reading CCG already has the lowest funding in the country and that across the West of Berkshire primary care – in other words GPs – is receiving £25 million below what they should be. Yet, next year they have to make many millions of pounds of savings.
It is no wonder therefore that there is huge concern. But more than that, it is hard what is behind the latest reconfiguration of our health service locally. I am all in favour of closer working between health and social care, and indeed had a useful conversation about how we could look at joint recruitment campaigns between health and social care and training, for example in ensuring staff in all areas have good understanding of the mental capacity act.
However this is a far cry from the apparent goals of the Accountable Care Organisations, which the government has hastily rebranded Integrated Care Systems – because who could be against integration?
The ultimate goal nationally seems to be to conveniently parcel up the NHS into bite size chunks, along with social care, to private companies. So far this hasn’t happened in the West of Berkshire but we are in an early cohort alongside Nottingham, which has already handed over care to a private firm, Capita.
We must resist this happening here buy building a movement against it: trade unionists, staff, patients, councillors and all of us working together to make sure that we keep our NHS public.
The last Labour government saved the NHS. We must work to ensure that the next Labour government has an NHS left to save.