CUTS to health and social care services in Coventry and Warwickshire are not inevitable, the local NHS chief has told a public meeting.
Professor Andrew Hardy, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW), said he wanted to spend money more efficiently in a bid to to save more than £260million over the next four years as part of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).
He refuted claims he would need to scale back services at a health and social care forum organised by Healthwatch Warwickshire.
He said: “When the initial plan was leaked, people were saying it was about making cuts to NHS budgets. This is simply not true.
“What the plan said was that if we carried on doing things the way we were doing them now, we will be spending more money. The rate of expenditure will go up.
“Our challenge is how we are going to spend the money more effectively and efficiently, which is very different to making cuts. For example there is too much duplication – if we get things right first time it’s cheaper.”
Shortly before the meeting he was presented with a 1,600 signature petition calling for more transparency on local healthcare plans following the ‘savage’ funding cuts.
Campaigners South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public (SWKONP) say the plans are being devised behind closed doors and are calling on STP bosses to publish full financial, workforce and site plans.
A spokeswoman told the Observer: “Despite many requests and Freedom of Information applications asking for full details, none have been provided. There has been a total lack of transparency when it comes to consultation about the impact of the STP. This includes plans to close acute stroke wards in Warwick Hospital.
“Mental health services area also being ‘reconfigured’, with plans to move acute psychiatric beds from St Michaels Hospital, Warwick to the Caludon Centre at UHCW.
“How can we expect improvements with savage funding cuts and no proper details of how the changes will be properly staffed and costed.”
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has also voiced his concerns about the plans.
He said: “Almost a year ago a few of us were urging the STP board to release information of the plan. When the plan was ultimately released, it was a vacuous piece of opaque report-writing which included no specifics but simply alluded to some possible areas of consideration.
“We are now seeing the truth behind the plan. Despite what it may say publicly, government is progressively privatising the NHS.”
An STP spokesman said: “We are committed to developing our plans for better health and social care services across Coventry and Warwickshire in partnership with the public and local stakeholders through engagement and consultation.
“We want to work in close partnership with patients, the public and our staff. As such, we welcome involvement from local groups such as South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public. We would encourage people across the local community to be involved in discussions around our plans as they are developed over the coming months and years.”