North Yorkshire’s health watchdog is holding a high profile, cross party summit with health leaders about the future of health services in the county.

On Friday 16 December, the County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee will be holding health leaders to account about the shape of health services for the county over the next five years and in particular whether there are any plans to downgrade or close any more hospital and community health services.

The Committee had made an urgent call for a summit to be held with health service leaders at its last meeting due to grave concerns about NHS England’s plans to re-organise the delivery of NHS services and the impact this would have on a large rural county like North Yorkshire. 

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), as they are known, cover 44 different areas of the country and are intended to accelerate the implementation of an NHS five-year efficiency plan as well as developing new models of care and improving health and wellbeing.

However, Scrutiny of health Committee chairman County Councillor Jim Clark says the plans are being rushed through and are modelled around the needs of urban centres, threatening to leach health funds from North Yorkshire’s largely rural areas. 

The scrutiny committee had been particularly concerned that in the rush to draw up the plans, the NHS had missed Craven off the map altogether.

Cllr Clark said: “The county has already seen reductions in health provision.  The Lambert Memorial Community Hospital in Thirsk has been closed due to shortages of skilled health care staff, concerns have been raised about the future of Ripon Community Hospital, Clinical Commissioning Groups are limiting access to elective surgery based upon people’s BMI and whether they smoke or not, and there is a national review of funding to community pharmacies.”

North Yorkshire is one of only very few counties that are covered by three STP plans – each based around large urban areas like Leeds and Bradford, Middlesbrough, and Hull.  This means the focus for planning services is likely to be upon large acute hospitals outside of the county and not necessarily upon the more local health services currently in place in North Yorkshire.

The County Council is actively asking the Secretary of State and NHS England to review boundaries and create one STP for North Yorkshire.

At next week’s summit the health scrutiny committee, which includes Members from across all parties, will expecting answers on the following::

  • What the priorities are for health care in the county over the next 5 years?
  • What the benefits will be to the people of North Yorkshire?
  • Whether there are any plans to downgrade or close any more hospital and community health services in the county?
  • What NHS funding will be committed to North Yorkshire over the next 5 years and how this compares to current funding levels?
  • How decisions are made and who will be accountable?
  • How far non-NHS services and organisations have been engaged in the planning process to date?
  • How key issues like the current shortage of skilled staff are going to be addressed?
  • Is there a ‘Plan B’ and what happens if the STP plans are unable to deliver the massive savings they need to?

Cllr Clark added: “We want to ensure that decisions about the future of health care services in North Yorkshire are not made by the NHS in isolation and that the reductions that we have seen to date are not the beginning of a long series of cuts as funding is diverted out of the county to surrounding cities like Middlesbrough, Leeds-Bradford and Hull.” 

The NHS nationally will have an estimated deficit of £30 billion by 2020/21, if nothing is done to reduce the demand for hospital services and find new ways of providing care in the community that is preventative and targeted.

Cllr Clark stated that the Council supports the STP process in principle. He stated: “Something has to be done to make the NHS financially viable in the long term, in the face of rising demand and people living longer with more complex health needs. 

“The current approach, however, is unlikely to deliver the long term savings, improvements in the quality of care and outcomes for patients that are sought.”