Will the NHS – five year forward plan put patient care at risk?

23 Nov 2016

The government recently published a series of NHS regional sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) which will attempt to centralise a number of hospital services across the country. The plans are proving to be controversial both in parliament and amongst campaign groups and there is growing concern that patients will face increasing difficulty gaining access to urgently needed care.

The justification behind the plans, which aim at the local implementation of the NHS Five Year Forward View, is that the rationalisation and more efficient management of health services will lead to better patient care and allow the government to meet the £22bn of efficiency savings to which it has committed.

However, the changes are likely to lead to hospitals across the country losing key services such as cancer and stroke care, and the downgrading or closure of Accident and Emergency units. It is expected that thousands of beds in acute district hospitals will be lost and in one hospital the downgrading of the maternity unit is expected to see maternity care supervised by midwifes instead of doctors. Some patients who currently enjoy local access to urgent care services will be forced to travel many miles to access such care, which could obviously have disastrous and even fatal consequences.

The plans will be subject to consultation and it is likely that they will face serious opposition, not least from many doctors who have said that they have not yet been consulted. At a time when the NHS is already facing a serious funding crisis such radical changes will cause concern to many. It is to be hoped that the plans will be attentive to the needs of patients and will take into consideration the views of those working in hospitals nationwide, and not be driven solely by a desire to cut the cost of the NHS budget.

Those working in the field of medical negligence are well aware of the importance of patients having easy access to urgent care and it is to be hoped that these changes are implemented in a way which puts patient safety first and lessens the chances of mistakes being made and claims against the NHS.

To speak with specialist medical negligence lawyer, Stephanie Prior, call us on 020 7485 8811 or e-mail stephanieprior@osbornes.net

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