The letter below was published in the Stroud News & Journal as "Reader's Letter: ‘Thanks for coming to hub’":
We would like to express our thanks to everyone who attended our NHS exhibition and campaign hub on Stroud High St from February 4th-11th. We wanted to raise awareness about the Gloucestershire NHS five-year “Sustainability and Transformation Plan”, which claims that – through partnership between the County Council and local health bosses in the Clinical Commissioning Group - a plan has been made to provide more joined up care to meet people’s needs more effectively despite huge funding pressures. SATC believes that cuts to services and sell offs are being hidden as the plan demands £226 million of savings and there is a £100 million hole in the capital budget, the local share of a national £22 billion gap in funding provided and the estimated requirement.
Our “Hands Off our NHS” postcard asks all County Councillors to robustly defend Gloucestershire NHS services against further loss of hospital beds and services by opposing the local plan and the government’s underfunding of the NHS and social care. The plans are a fantasy wish list, heavily dependent on the NHS spending large sums on IT, with no guarantees about the future of our hospitals, and with no evidence to back them up. Although the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council is a signatory to the plan, financial and other details have not been made available to the public or even to our elected representatives. We fear that information is being withheld because of the County Council elections which are happening in May - not having the detail is a significant restraint on the democratic process.
Health Campaigns Together – joint organisers of the national protest in London this Saturday, believe that “by trying to engage local authorities into signing off STPs, NHS England has for the first time opened up the possibility of forcing some accountability” (through our elected councillors). We urge our County Councillors to speak out, and are encouraging our Gloucestershire politicians to follow the example of those in other areas who have successfully opposed their local STPs.
This government is making a political choice to underfund the NHS, to close and privatise services and to reduce our access to healthcare as the system becomes more like the disastrous one in America. We hope people will join us on the coach to London or at our stall on Kings St at 12 noon this Saturday to show their support for a publicly-funded, publicly-owned NHS providing comprehensive, universal care on the basis of need not ability to pay, and to demonstrate their opposition to this government’s policies.
Caroline Molloy, Editor of ourNHS openDemocracy campaigning journalism website, and James Beecher, Chris Stockwell, Hannah Basson, Stroud Against the Cuts