May 20, 2021 4.43 pm This story is over 30 months old

Campaigners say council is “jumping the gun” with new health board

They say plans have not changed

Health campaigners have issued an open letter accusing Lincolnshire County Council of “jumping the gun” over a new Integrated Care System Partnership Board — but chiefs say the authority “can’t stand still” while it waits for government plans to be approved.

Lincolnshire County Council’s full council on Friday will be asked to approve the conversion of its Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) into the new board, which government have called for in order to promote greater partnership working for its national Integrated Care System’s (ICS) plan.

However, an open letter to all councillors sent by campaigners on Thursday claims approving the changes would be a step towards effectively reversing a council decision to reject cuts to the NHS in 2016.

According to the government, its ICS plan will build on the former NHS Long Term Plans by removing barriers and red tape over integration and decision making, and ensuring the system is more accountable.

However, the campaigners say the new plans are exactly the same as the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships rejected by the council in 2016.

The board was supposed to have been in place by April, but Melissa Darcey, of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire NHS Campaign Group, said it was due to community groups fighting against the plans that they had been delayed.

She said: “They’re the same plans, they just changed the name. It’s still the STP and hasn’t changed for five years.”

The campaigners said it would still see cuts to services at the county’s hospitals and downgrades to its GP and maternity provisions among other things.

In their letter to councillors they said that by approving the change to their HWB, the council would be now indicating its support for the plans.

“This change in the county council constitution will effectively tie-in the Health and Well-being Board, and subsequently the entire county council, with the Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Lincolnshire, (now currently known as the Integrated Care Systems), however, on December 16, 2016 Lincolnshire County Council unanimously rejected Lincolnshire’s STP.”

Lincoln County Hospital | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

They said the white paper had not yet been laid before parliament and there were still moves nationally against the plans, including a motion to parliament planned for June 21.

“Why do Lincolnshire’s councillors and Health and Wellbeing Board feel that it is necessary to jump the gun in this instance?” said the letter.

They have asked the council to “at least defer” the decision until a later date “when the national picture is a little more certain and there is more clarity on the plans”.

“I would also ask that you go back to 2016 and ask yourself – Is this plan any different to the one you unanimously rejected?” added the letter.

If approved, the new ICSPB’s new membership will include eight county councillors, three county council directors, nine health chiefs, a district council representative, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire and a member of Healthwatch.

Lincolnshire county councillor Sue Woolley, responsible for NHS liaison and community engagement

Sue Woolley, Executive Councillor for NHS Liaison, said the council remained committed to working with partners to improve health and social care for Lincolnshire residents.

“Yes we are still waiting on the delayed long term plan for social care from government, but we can’t stand still and the proposals will strengthen joint working towards improvements for those who need health and social care support,” she said.

“All those who use services for support have got to be at the forefront of any planned improvements going forward and this process allows us to take into consideration all the views of our residents and patients.

“We have ensured the districts are very actively involved in both the Health and Wellbeing Board and also a number of the groups that support it.

“The council does not lose any of its powers in further building joint working opportunities with the NHS locally.

“All of this of course will build upon the long standing and effective joint working that exists between partners. “