FEARS have been raised the NHS is one step closer to privatising local healthcare.
The Observer recently revealed plans to split Warwickshire into 22 areas based on population in a bid to target healthcare needs.
Chiefs of the Coventry and Warwickshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) – which looks to save £267million from local healthcare budgets over five years – say they must split the county into groups of between 30,000 and 50,000.
This has led Warwickshire, with a population of just over 500,000, to be divided into 22 areas, and Coventry, with a population of 317,000, could potentially have as many as ten.
But campaign group South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public (SWKONP) say the move is the first step towards the STP becoming an American-style ‘Accountable Care Organisation’ (ACO). This would see all hospitals, GPs and healthcare providers working together to provide a more ‘joined-up’ service.
A spokeswoman said: “SWKONP believes that there is a profoundly worrying hidden agenda.
“These 22 geographies are necessary to turn the STP into a system which is the first step toward an ACO.
“Joined-up’ care between free NHS services and means-tested social care blurs the boundaries between what is free and what is paid for, allowing slippage into more paid for health services.
“The ACO model provides one body with monolithic powers, and without public accountability.”
The British Medical Association says the ACO’s would be in charge of deciding which services are provided by which company and which would be paid for.
The SWKONP spokeswoman added: “The ACO model is likely to lead to outsourcing on an even grander scale. One single organisation will be responsible for managing all or the vast majority of health services – and possibly social services – within an agreed financial cap.
“Few public bodies will be capable of managing this complex mix of services themselves, and it seems at least possible that most of our acute, community and primary care services will end up working for a contractor such as Capita or Virgin.”
A spokesman for the STP, which has recently changed its name to ‘Better Health, Better Care, Better Value’ said geographical population areas were essential.
He said: “Building integrated services around populations of 30,000-50,000 is vital and will help us better meet the health and wellbeing needs of the local population. For example, it will help GPs have the closest possible link to care provided for their patients.
“These population areas will be important to help people live well, stay independent and enjoy life.”