The Cambridgeshire Sustainability Transformation Plan appears to be a blueprint for savage cuts and blows the lid on government plans to privatise the NHS. The sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) have been dubbed “slash, trash and plunder” by campaigners. Govt plans to cut £22 billion from the NHS budget by 2020 could see thousands of beds lost and units closed, including A&E departments. Doctors have raised concerns about being shut out of the plans. Most of the proposals were shrouded in secrecy before being published, with NHS England ordering managers not to give out information until bosses had given approval. The Cambridgeshire plan was initially led by Dr Neil Modha, the chief clinical officer responsible for Cambridgeshire’s disastrous £800m Uniting Care Partnership contract for services for elderly people.

That collapsed amid controversy only months into a seven-year deal, following a bidding process that cost over £1m. Within the STP are shocking plans for NHS privatisation and a reducing “dependence on public funding in line with current devolution discussions.” The local clinical commissioning group (CCG) details plans to become an “accountable care organisation” (ACO) — a model based on costly and inefficient US private health companies. It would see a group of firms take over care for a given population for a certain amount of time under a contract with a health commissioner. Campaigners say it’s a step towards scrapping the NHS as a public service and turning it into one that runs on insurance, as in the US. The details of the STP are the clearest sign yet that the government is paving the way towards the wholesale privatisation of the NHS. Plans to bring in the private sector are revealed when it talks of “leveraging” the ‘Cambridge research’ brand and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough-wide education and business offer to attract investment and make new partnerships.” The plans also contain £500m of cuts.

The CCG has been involved in consultation over closing minor injury units in rural parts of the county while plans for Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust to acquire Hinchingbrooke Hospital Healthcare Trust are being fiercely opposed by Hands Off Hinchingbrooke campaigners, who fear that jobs and services will be lost, and ultimately to meet savage savings targets Hinchingbrooke Hospital will become unsustainable.

Unison Cambridge Acute Hospitals spokesman Stuart Tuckwood said that “the current deficit in the NHS is due to government funding not keeping pace with demand, on top of a shambolic and chaotic reorganisation that is pushing trusts into debt. “The £22bn savings cannot be delivered without cuts and we fear that is what ‘sustainability’ will mean for services in our area. “We have already experienced the devastating effects of failed privatisation in this area with the collapse of the £800m Uniting Care Partnership contract and the disaster of [privateer] Circle at Hinchingbrooke, who cut and ran after less than three years, leaving the public sector to pick up the pieces as the hospital was placed into special measures.” The CCG said the plans weren’t final and would be subject to consultation.

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