5 May 2011

Before the general election David Cameron promised that the NHS would be safe in Tory hands. Yes, I know, a politician’s promise is like snow in summer. Turn your back and it’s gone.

And gone this one has.

Along with the proposed Tory Libdem changes to the organisation of the NHS, are cuts – governments tend to call them efficiency savings but they usually turn out to be buying fewer paperclips, employing fewer workers, and ending or reducing services.

Last year the Tory Libdem government looked for annual cuts of 4 percent from hospitals in England. The other day Monitor, the foundation hospital regulator set up by the last Labour government, wrote to foundation and would-be foundation hospital trusts. The letter is here.

It has increased the suggested savings/cuts from 4 percent to 6-7 percent a year which compounded over five years total 37 percent; the letter explains why. I do not believe a hospital can make savings of that level without eating into jobs and patient services.

Additionally, this is the figure that Monitor will be using from May 1st when assessing an NHS hospital application to become a foundation trust. There are adverse changes to the tariff and readmission fines too.

What are the implications for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) which aspires to foundation status? The RCHT should tell us now candidly how it sees its position and future in the light of these latest and large changes. Can it make these new savings/cuts? What will be the impact upon services, on paying off the debt, on investing in improvements, on securing foundation status?

I hope my gloom can be solidly confounded.