Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Commenting on the Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, Jeremy said:

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent was published today. It has a number of aims: better primary and community care; effective and efficient planned care; a focus in prevention, particularly in respect of obesity, smoking and diabetes; a simpler urgent and emergency care system; and better use of resources.

Behind all this stands a commitment to better health outcomes, particularly in cancer, and a reduction in health inequality at a time when we have a growing and ageing population. We also have considerable challenges in mental health. The suicide rate in Stoke-on-Trent for men aged 15-34 is 30pc higher than the national average.

There are several sensible proposals - much greater coordination and working together, the pooling of budgets and the reduction of costs such as duplicate administration and excessive agency staff payments.

However there is one suggestion which is clearly wrong and flies in the face of evidence and common sense. That is the proposal to reduce the three current A&E's (Stoke, Burton and Stafford) to two plus one urgent care centre (which presumably would be unable to receive ambulances/999 calls).

The obvious assumption is  that Stoke would remain an A&E while either Burton or Stafford would be an urgent care centre. That makes no sense. The Royal Stoke is often overwhelmed while both Stafford and Burton are currently operating at high levels. In some weeks, Stafford's County hospital is receiving as many patients in 14 hours/day as it used to receive in 24/hours per day.

The priority must be to sort out the problems which are resulting in poor A&E performance. These principally relate to delayed discharges of patients who are fit to leave hospital but for whom there is no social care in place at home. There are other reasons - for instance, the lack of availability of GP appointments which means that people go to A&E for want of an alternative.

The STP also does not seem to take either geography or future developments into consideration. Staffordshire is a large county and the sizeable catchment areas of all three A&Es reflect this. We will also see in the coming years enormous disruption from the construction of HS2 which will cut right across all of our main roads and have an impact on journey times.

In Stafford, we have already been through a major reorganisation with changing and - in some cases, such as A&E - reduced services. They were based on a detailed report by the Trust Special Administrators (TSA), accepted by the Government in 2014 as the minimum required. In the meantime, the population of the Stafford area has increased and, with it, the demand for health services, not least a return to a 24/7 A&E which I will continue to call for at every opportunity.

The savings foreseen by a reduction from 3 A&Es to 2 A&Es and an urgent care centre are c£4m per annum. In comparison with the total savings required of more than £150m, this is very small. In fact, I would argue that quality of care would fall and costs would rise as people have to travel further for essential emergency treatment.

It is therefore essential that the STP team and the NHS rule this proposal out at the earliest opportunity. It will give my constituents greater confidence in the ability of the STP to make positive changes if this unworkable proposal - whether it affects Burton or Stafford - is dropped.

I have applied for a debate in the House of Commons early in the New Year, and I intend to speak about the STP in a general debate next Tuesday (20th December). I will also write to Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the NHS, and the Health Minister.

Finally, I will continue to pursue the campaign for better funding for health and social care, which I again raised in the House of Commons today.