£1.2bn bid to privatise cancer and end-of-life care in Staffordshire rejected
A £1.2 billion move to privatise cancer and end-of-life services in Staffordshire has been overwhelmingly opposed by a district council.
Cannock Chase Council has rebelled against the plan and accused health chiefs of 'sidelining' two petitions signed by thousands of Staffordshire residents.
A meeting of the full council voted against the proposal by Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Group followed a rallying call by council leader George Adamson.
The proposed contract is the biggest potential privatisation in NHS history with bidders going head-to-head for control of care for 800,000 people across Staffordshire and three million potential patients from neighbouring counties.
Negotiations between the CCG, which holds the purse strings locally for the NHS, and various bidders for the provision of cancer services has been under way for some months, with an announcement due before the end of the year.
The procurement process was held up following the withdrawal of University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust from the winning consortium which also included The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and private firm Interserve Investments.
In May opponents handed a 64,000-name petition to the CCG demanding the proposals were axed following a rally in Hednesford. A year ago, the national campaign group Cancer Not For Profit presented a 12,000-strong petition to Staffordshire County Council.
Cancer Not For Profit say they will now use the Cannock motion, which was carried 38 to one, to bring other local councils around the country on board.
Gail Gregory, a retired head teacher from Gnosall, Stafford, and a leading light in the group, said: "For too long, programme leaders have said that they are supported by local councils in this experiment with our health care but we now see that is untrue.
"We want all councils in the affected area to say where they stand on this critical issue for Staffordshire's NHS. Unless we do something now, we shall lose control of this vital service for the next 10 years.
"Cannock Chase District Council say so, UHNM say so, and so do the 64,000 people who signed our petition. The question now is, will the CCG dismiss these concerns as they have all the others."
Councillor Adamson said the two services were too important to contract out to the private sector. "They are two of the most emotive issues anyone has to deal with in their lives, and the residents of Staffordshire deserve better," he said.
"This is just a way for the CCG to save money because they are in a financial mess. They forget that they are a public body, spending public money and seem to think if they make a decision then that's the end of it. It's not acceptable, we're not prepared to sit back and let them do this."
Andrew Donald, Chief Officer for Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase CCGs, said: "Patients, carers and health and social care professionals working in that system have been telling us for many years that it is not joined up and that this can lead to poor care with patients getting lost in a system that is inefficient and creates unnecessary duplication and waste.
"The Transforming Cancer and End of Life Care programme will appoint two organisations to coordinate those services and ensure they operate in an integrated way that improves the experience and outcome for patients, one for cancer care and the other for end of life care.
"But crucially, cancer and end of life care will continue to be provided by the NHS and the organisations that are currently commissioned to provide it. "
"The programme itself was developed working with patients who have experienced the current system and know where those cracks exist," he said. "They have helped us to understand the potential to do things better, to improve the way people with cancer and those at the end of their life are cared for across Staffordshire.
"The programme has a network of patients that work closely with us, all of whom bring personal experience of cancer care in Staffordshire as current or recovering patients, and end of life care as bereaved people.
"When we speak to patients about the programme through the engagement work we have done and continue to do, there is significant support for the programme because patients continue to tell us that the system is failing them, despite receiving good care.
"Patients continue to tell us that communication between different services is poor which means that they have to constantly repeat their story and struggle to navigate a complex system.