About 15 demonstrators gathered outside a little publicised meeting in The Waveney House Hotel, Beccles (7th March) to discuss the future of the NHS, a future which apparently lies as part of new corporate bodies now to be known as ICOs. (Integrated Care Organisations). This astonishingly radical reorganisation aims to bring together a host of NHS services with local authority funded but largely privatised social care.
Why the rather simple task of getting them to communicate better with each other necessitates such a costly and disruptive process is not clear. Even the boundaries of the proposed ICO (Norfolk and Waveney) are different to those of current NHS and social care services. They would all need to be dissolved and reorganised. All this while dealing with £300m of cuts.
Worse is the nature of the ICOs. These would control and fund all health and social care services; who would get what, if you would have to pay and who would provide the service. Sitting on the board alongside NHS representatives, and probably token councillors, would be the health care companies and the, often City owned, care home owners. The running of ACOs are to be put out to tender and would be bound by corporate rules.
About 60 attended the Beccles meeting, many riled by the lack of publicity and by the furtive nature of the plan’s introduction. Anton Lejk, the lead executive of the plan to introduce the ICO to Norfolk and Waveney, talked of “crisis management” in the NHS and concluded that therefore services have to be integrated. The logic of the connection was missing. His following remark however summed it up his attitude, “we deal with the money which is given to us”. He was also in charge of cuts to services in Norfolk.
The following day Anton Lejk announced his resignation and appointment to yet another new job, as Chief Executive of the mental health trust, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.
These plans are not getting an easy ride. Largely stalled by parliamentary challenges (they have never been sanctioned by parliament) the Beccles meeting was no more than a belated attempt to add some legitimacy. They are rightly condemned as more cuts and privatisation of the NHS and care services. The reason they are in crisis is that they are chronically underfunded and understaffed. The plan for ICOs should be scrapped now.