Joy as county NHS opts to remain in public hands
STROUD campaigners are celebrating a major U-turn forced by people power, keeping £400million-worth of NHS services in the public sector.
On Monday NHS Gloucestershire's board voted unanimously to establish a new National Health Service trust to run nine community hospitals and 3,000 NHS staff following a legal challenge from Stroud pensioner Michael Lloyd, 76.
Campaigners had feared a year ago that the establishment of a not-for-profit company to run those services would eventually lead to some being cherry picked by private operators.
Then, NHS Gloucestershire didn't have the option to seek setting up a new NHS Trust, and wanted its provider staff in Gloucestershire Care Services to transfer to a not-for-profit company.
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But in May it was told it could set up a new NHS trust, and after an overwhelming response from staff and the public, yesterday agreed to do so.
"It just goes to show that if you are determined enough, you can win the argument," said Caroline Molloy of Stroud Against the Cuts. "We were told services had to go out to tender and there was no choice.
"This decision is significant, not just for Gloucestershire."
The other option NHS Gloucestershire considered was putting the services out for private tender – something campaigners including Stroud Labour party, the Green party and Stroud Against the Cuts feared would open a back door to privatisation of the NHS.
When NHS Gloucestershire asked staff and the public what they wanted, the message was clear – 96 per cent of 2,500 people said they wanted to continue under the NHS, and an overwhelming number of staff surveyed said they wanted the same.
NHS Gloucestershire buys and provides community health services across the county but national changes mean that, as a buyer, it can't also provide community health services after March 2013.
The same goes for its successor for buying services, Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, run by doctors with the power to spend £750million on all county health services, including £400million over three years with the new trust.
Now NHS Gloucestershire will ask the Department of Health for the go-ahead to start a new NHS trust in April 2013.
"It is now time to look to the future and we are confident that everyone – staff, community partners and the public – will pull together to make sure that community support and local services are the best they can be," said NHS Gloucestershire chief executive Jan Stubbings.
Mr Lloyd was delighted at the outcome of the meeting.
"A year ago, I never expected anything like this," he said. "It's something that is very important to all of us, and sometimes somebody has to pick up a trumpet and blow it."