Northants health bosses want meeting ahead of service cuts

Angela Hillery
Angela Hillery

Health bosses from across Northamptonshire are demanding a meeting with leaders at Northamptonshire County Council ahead of expected huge service cuts.

There was strong criticism of the county authority at yesterday’s Health and Wellbeing Board meeting (September 13) that the authority is seemingly moving ahead with plans to cut its services without having an input from Northamptonshire’s various health services.

There are fears the cuts could have a huge impact on communities.

Health bosses, including the leader of Northamptonshire Health Foundation Trust Angela Hillery and Northampton General Hospital’s chief executive Sonia Swart, blasted the authority for not asking for their input.

Angela Hillery said: “We requested a meeting through this board in July and we have still not got that meeting. Health is not round the table and it cannot be right. I am getting increasingly concerned.

“We are all agreed this situation is unprecedented. However, I am not seeing the urgency. I am still hearing people can’t meet.”

Dr Sonia Swart said a meeting with top bosses at NCC under Chatham House Rules was needed. The rules mean that people can use information gained in the meeting but the identity of the information-giver is not revealed.

She said: “This is what we have asked for. So we can do some up-front mitigation and talk about what the impact could be. This is not scaremongering. We need to get the chief executives around the table.

“It is too late to get us round the table once everything has been agreed.”

The knock-on effects of the crisis at the county council were made clear at the meeting.

The authority has to shave a huge £60m from its service bill by April and is under huge pressure.

Referring to the planned service cuts Dr Jo Watt, clinical chairman of the Corby CCG, said: “We must be minded of any unintended impact. It is really important that we as a system look at things not just in a financial context. The most vulnerable of our population are the people most likely to bear the brunt.”

The Health and Wellbeing board, which has a statutory duty to produce a health and wellbeing strategy for the county, had been criticised by the latest CGC review in May for not challenging the various health organisations.

At yesterday’s meeting, which is the first since the report was published, there was some holding to account in action.

Conservative deputy leader of the county council Cecile Irving-Swift was taken to task for her assertion that the over-riding concern of the council was to stabilise its finances.

Meeting chairman University Northampton vice-chancellor Nick Petford said: “We want to help our political colleagues. If you get this wrong we are in meltdown. Hiding behind the 114 notice is not good enough.”

Chief executive of East Northamptonshire Council David Oliver said: “The county council cannot operate in isolation. Over a period of years the county have made decisions in isolation. We do need to join all this up.”

At the end of the meeting the director of children’s services at NCC Walter McCulloch said he had managed to contact NCC’s chief executive Theresa Grant and that a meeting between NCC and health bosses could take place next week.

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter