The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a “short-term cost-cutting exercise”.

In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the councils covered by the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Cllr Watts has expressed serious concerns about the process and called for commitments from the Chief Executive of NHS England that services will not be reduced.   

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Health services in North London face huge challenges and local councils want to help meet them, so that local people continue to receive the care they need. However, the NHS-led STP process has moved worryingly away from looking at how we solve the issues we face and is instead focusing on short-term cost-cutting.

“Along with the leaders of the other councils in the North Central London STP area, I have called on the NHS to urgently confirm that this process will not lead to a reduction in health services.

“We need to rapidly move the conversation on to discussing long-term preventative activity that will help people to lead healthier lives and will also reduce demand for expensive care services.”

In a letter to Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, the leaders of Islington, Camden, Haringey, Enfield and Barnet councils say the mechanisms of NHS funding (including the STP process) are twisting the priorities of healthcare partners, forcing them to focus only on short-term cost-cutting exercises to balance increasingly precarious budgets. The council leaders warn that longer-term aims to transform healthcare in the region are under threat as a result.

The leaders’ letter calls for six commitments from the NHS -; 

  • No reduction in health services, or service standards (including no detrimental changes in access to services) in North Central London as a result of pressures on CCG, the current exercise or the STP;
  • Additional funding if required to guarantee the above, including resolving the funding/ accounting issues we have mentioned in this letter;
  • Full and proper consultation with residents and patients on any proposals for health service changes, meaning that they will be involved in re-designing services;
  • Return the focus of NHS leaders in North London to long-term transformational change over the STP period, working across the health and care system with Councils as equal partners;
  • Returning to your ambition for local flexibility in determining our health and care system, reducing the central control exercised over the system;
  • Encourage NHS leaders to invest in long-term prevention activity, which by 2020/21 will reduce the demand for expensive health and care. 

The leaders have called for a meeting with Mr Stevens and have urged him to guarantee the protection of existing health services and standards in north London, even if additional funding is required; to address and resolve the systemic funding issues hampering current efforts; and consulting with residents and patients on any proposed changes to health services.

For more updates on the STP process, please visit Islington Council’s website

Pictured – Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

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