North Manchester General Hospital may face ‘extinction’ as the shocking scale of budget cuts proposed by the government’s Healthier Together programme becomes clear.
NHS campaigners gathered in Manchester this weekend in a conference to protest against the cuts, claiming that the knock-on effects are likely to impact the whole region.
It was revealed that the £6billion NHS budget allocated to Greater Manchester under Devo Manc represents a decrease of up to 16%, which is likely to trigger a ‘vicious spiral’ of cuts and downgrades to services.
Hugh Caffrey, spokesperson for Keep Our NHS Public, told MM: “We’re going to see a staggering level of cuts.
“North Manchester General could lose all in-patient surgery, trauma, orthopaedics, gynaecology, and emergency general surgery.
“This is going to mean huge losses of services all across the board – and North Manchester General will face extinction as a general hospital.
“The scale of cuts there just confirms all our worst fears about what would be likely to happen as a result of Healthier Together.”
The Healthier Together programme was introduced by the government in an attempt to streamline the NHS, but campaigners see it as a further step towards privatisation.
Mr Caffrey suggested that Healthier Together bosses were trying to keep the public in the dark, as only a few people were consulted in the proposals to cut services at North Manchester General.
He said: “This hasn’t had much media attention because Healthier Together had such a small consultation on it. Hardly anyone in Manchester participated in it.
“We’re not opposed to consultations, we’re not opposed to looking at how services could be provided in a different manner, but what we are against is this behind the doors lash-up to chop out essential sections of our NHS.”
At the conference on Saturday, campaigners also spoke of their fear at seeing mental health services on the frontline of government cuts, with no alternatives in place.
Caroline Bedale, a health worker and member of the Manchester Deserves Better campaign, explained that the loss of specialist psychological support groups would have a ‘devastating impact’.
She told MM: “These are the only recovery-based, community-based services for mental healthcare in Manchester.
“These services keep people well, keep them out of hospital, keep them from relapsing and becoming ill again.
“If these services are cut, together they would only save [the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust] about £700,000.
“That might sound like a lot of money but it’s peanuts in terms of the total NHS budget, and it would destroy the specialised recovery services for which there is absolutely no replacement.”
“These cuts are not financially viable, but [the Trust managers] have got to be seen to be doing something. It sounds like these services are being sacrificed to feed the beast.”
The cuts are planned in spite of David Cameron’s promise for a £1billion ‘revolution’ in mental health care earlier this month.
In a speech last Monday he announced that services for postnatal depression and anorexia will receive extra funding, and new mental health waiting time targets will be introduced in April.
However, many campaigners are concerned that this may be too little too late for Manchester’s struggling mental health services.
The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust assured people that they are committed to meeting their patients’ needs and puutting them ‘at the heart’ of everything they do.
A apokesman said: “We are proud of the progress we have made over the last 12 months in working with the City Council and our NHS commissioners in developing truly integrated care services across the north part of the city of Manchester.
“We are working hard to ensure that we engage with council colleagues and other members of the Manchester Health and Wellbeing Board to ensure local health and social care services are provided jointly and further developed to meet the needs of the people of Manchester.
“Importantly, the services we have developed with the council are benefiting patients. We want to progress this.
“Our Chief Executive has made clear to our staff that patient pathways and models of care need to change as part of our clinical service transformation plans and more recently as part of our commitment to work with University Hospitals of South Manchester and Central Manchester FT to support an independent review on exploring a single hospital model for the city of Manchester.
“This review is important to enable Pennine Acute Trust to look both inwards towards the city and outwards towards Bury, Rochdale and Oldham to ensure we provide the best range and access to quality of services for all of the communities we serve.
“Our staff at North Manchester General are dedicated and committed, and continue to work incredibly hard to put our patients first and at the heart of everything we do.”
Keep Our NHS Public will be participating in the ‘Health Campaigns Together’ conference on Saturday 30 January in London to protest further cuts to NHS services.
Image courtesy of Garry Knight, with thanks.