Government must come clean on plans to deal with Devon NHS financial crisis

It is essential the Government comes clean and announces its plans for those NHS areas in the worst financial trouble, including Devon, before the election.  Otherwise, the public will quite rightly conclude Ministers are trying to “bury bad news” until after May 7th.

I have it on good authority that the NHS was expecting to announce “intervention and support” regimes for the most “financially distressed” NHS areas at the same time as the new “vanguard” integration pilots, which were unveiled this week. This didn’t happen. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, my Labour colleague, Paul Farrelly, the MP for Newcastle under Lyme, asked David Cameron about his area, which is facing a £200 million deficit. He got no answer.

I asked the Leader of the Commons, William Hague, the same question today. Again, no answer.

It is widely thought that Devon’s looming financial crisis (a projected deficit of £430 million) is the worst in England. How on earth has this been allowed to happen when our local NHS was in such good, robust health when Labour left office in 2010?

We’ve already seen an unprecedented programme of cuts and rationing of services in Devon abandoned after a public outcry and questions I raised in Parliament. But the underlying financial problem remains and future measures are likely to have to be even worse unless the Government grips this now.

Today, I have tabled a number of Parliamentary questions to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. I have also written to him and the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens.

I am asking what plans they have to intervene and support the NHS in Devon and I’m seeking an assurance that an announcement is not being delayed by the Government for political reasons.

Devon NHS needs the help now.

I have also tabled a Freedom of Information request for the publication of the report by the consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers, which was commissioned by the Government to examine the reasons for Devon’s serious financial problems.

I am told this was finalised last August, but in spite of repeated requests from me and personal assurances provided to me by Ministers that it would be made available, it still hasn’t been. What exactly is this Government trying to hide?