I welcome the final publication of plans to remodel the NHS in south east London but they must pass a series of tests before councillors will support or agree to their implementation.

The report has confirmed our deep concerns about some serious flaws in the plans. There is nearly a £1bn shortfall over the next four years, there is a £12m shortfall for ambulance services, there is a further £80m shortfall due to poorer-than-expected financial performance and the changes to orthopaedic services could spell the end of Lewisham A & E.

Because of all of these threats, I want to apply four key tests that this process has to pass. Are the plans transparent and open? Is the funding in place?  Are the public being fully consulted? And finally will services improve?”

I am pleased that we now have final sight of it but make no mistake, it does contain potential backdoor methods for closing Lewisham A & E as well as other matters of great concern. While I welcome and embrace the opportunity to improve NHS services through greater cooperation and coordination, we must not be blinded by the deliberately complicated smokescreen of complex processes and documents leading to many and various consultations.

The key tests I apply are the plans transparent, are they open, is the funding in place and have the public been fully consulted and will services improve?

We all know that Council budgets are reducing across the six boroughs and that increasing community care provision against this backdrop is as they say “challenging”.

Greenwich Council’s Health Scrutiny meeting have challenged the CCG attempts to award a large contract to Circle Health, a private provider, rather than our local hospital. Taking money from our local hospital further undermines the ability of the Trust to keep two A & E Department open. Spirits were high and councillors challenged  NHS England and the proposers of the plans. It was great to see Dr Tony O’Sullivan who played a key role in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign give an impressive take down of the proposals and it was reassuring to hear Eltham MP Clive Efford say to Circle: “We’re a Labour borough with a Labour Council and Labour MPs, we don’t want you here.”

A critical analysis of  NHS STPs is available on Open democracy here:

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