‘Secret’ plans may lead to hospital mergers

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Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Pic by Owen Swift © JMU Journalism

Royal Liverpool University Hospital. Pic by Owen Swift © JMU Journalism

NHS bosses are trying to keep plans to cut hospital services in Merseyside and around the country a secret, an investigation has found.

According to the BBC, leaked documents have shown that there has been talk of merging four hospitals: The Royal Liverpool, Broadgreen, Aintree and Liverpool Women’s.

Full details of 44 reviews of services in England which involve closing some accident and emergency departments are yet to emerge.

The reviews are known as sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) and have been developed by NHS and local government leaders in 44 parts of England.

The King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve health and care in England, suggested that NHS England told local managers to keep the plans “out of the public domain” and avoid requests for information.

The King’s Fund report did not include any details of cuts, but the BBC has stated that from the leaks and plans that have been published so far, a partial picture is emerging of what is involved.

The report found that tight deadlines have made it difficult to secure meaningful involvement in the plans from key stakeholders, such as patients and the public, local authorities, clinicians and other frontline staff.

YouTube: Liverpool Health partners

Despite these problems, the report does urge the government and the NHS to continue to back STPs as the best hope for delivering long term improvement in health and social care.

Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: ‘The introduction of STPs has been beset by problems and has been frustrating for many of those involved, but it is vital that we stick with them.”

To date, a third of the 44 plans have been published, but in some cases that was due to local councils releasing them against the wishes of NHS managers. A spokesman for NHS England said that by the end of this week plans for at least half of the reviews will be published.

A spokesperson from The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust said that they did not have anyone to comment on the STP, but their website states: “The STP sets out a shared core purpose to ensure that the people of Merseyside and Cheshire become healthier than they are now and can continue to have access to safe, good quality and sustainable services.”

About Cheyenne Hansen, JMU Journalism