- Created: Monday, 28 April 2014 09:46
Patients' groups have raised fears that hospitals will be forced to cut services before it is safe to do so.
Controversial plans to shut NHS hospital wards across the country – which could trigger a fresh wave of A&E closures – are quietly being drawn up by health bosses, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Billions of pounds will be diverted from hospital budgets to help pay for better care homes and home help under the proposals, which are set to be signed off by Ministers within weeks.
But according to official plans seen by this paper, it will force the imminent closure of emergency medical wards, surgical wards and dementia wards.
Frontline doctors also fear the massive shake-up will cause more A&E departments to close – at a time of rapidly rising demand for emergency care.
Since 2007, eight English A&Es have been closed or downgraded. Another 14 are known to be under threat and last year there were a record 3.8million emergency admissions.
The £3.8billion Better Care Fund is meant to ensure that the sick and elderly only end up in hospital when they really need to be there and stop them staying in a ward for longer than necessary
But NHS England calculations have shown that the scheme will ‘transfer’ at least £2billion a year from the health service budget.
Ministers are due to approve the ward closures by April 21. One leading A&E doctor warned last night that the plans would ‘break the system’, leaving emergency patients without beds.
Dr Chidi Ejimofo said handing so much NHS money to social care was ‘like robbing Peter to pay Paul’, adding: ‘I think there’s every chance this could lead to a new wave of A&E closures.’
The consultant, who last year helped save A&E at Lewisham Hospital in South-East London from the axe, went on to say: ‘These plans are extremely worrying given that hospitals are already in a precarious state. We are on the edge of an unmitigated disaster.’
The Government has tried to deny that the Better Care Fund amounts to an NHS cut – and continues to insist it has no policy of shutting A&Es.
But NHS England has claimed that the fund will lead to a 15 per cent drop in emergency admissions after it kicks in next April, and GP-led clinical commissioning groups, which deliver services, have been asked to model ‘savings’ in their budget accordingly.
They have been told to ‘clearly identify where the NHS savings will be realised’ – and will have to show where they could each make an estimated £16million worth of cuts.
Organisations bidding for the fund’s cash are also required to state how they think hospital services will have been ‘reconfigured’ in five years’ time.
An NHS England PowerPoint presentation reminds the applicants of the need to convince staff and the public about the benefits of ‘major service changes as a result of five-year strategy plans and the Better Care Fund’.
But critics have warned that the money will simply disappear into council budgets.
Doctors have also claimed that its aims – while ‘laudable’ – are wildly optimistic.
Labour health spokesman Jamie Reed said: ‘David Cameron promised not to cut the NHS, but he is now raiding it to fill the holes his £2billion cuts have left in social care.’
But Care Minister Norman Lamb insisted: ‘This is not about “cuts” or taking money away from hospitals – it is about providing better joined-up care closer to home. The Better Care Fund is a major step to making this a reality.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2603385/Plan-shut-hospital-wards-threatens-new-wave-A-E-closures-break-system.html#ixzz2yqzIywty
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
illness sans-serif; font-size: 1.30769231em; line-height: 1.41176471em;">http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/video-hospital-campaigners-dont-fool-6902691
Save Our Hospital members protest in eccentric costumes on April Fools' Day