A Response from STITCH, Torrington to the Devon Integrated Care Service, ‘Together for Devon’

The Devon Integrated Care System (ICS) aka ‘Together for Devon’ is part of this government’s nationwide plans for National Health Service organisations in partnership with local councils and others, to take collective responsibility for managing resources and delivering NHS standards.

The NHS across England is being changed under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no public consultation, or the necessary legal Local Authority scrutiny on what are emergency measures being made permanent as part of the development of ICSs.

The Save The Irreplaceable Torrington Community Hospital campaign (STITCH) believes in democratic Local Authority scrutiny, with public consultation, and a fully funded National Health Service. 

Forty-two Integrated Care Systems including the so-called ‘Together for Devon’, have been introduced without consultation across Britain. Brought in from the USA their aim is to reduce costs per head and to provide a dividend for shareholders. This is profit at the expense of health. The Devon Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee (HACSC) is not being allowed to fulfil its legal responsibilities to scrutinise the major changes in NHS services that have been introduced under the Covid-19 emergency measures before they become a permanent part of ICS development.

STITCH believes that the HACSC must demand a full Public Consultation to examine these changes. Such action is part of established legal process.

The Devon Integrated Care System proposes on page 18 of its Long-Term Plan that ‘in line with savings made in previous years or the system to break even by 2023/4 recurrent savings of between £99m and £108m are required every year.’ Already £557m has been cut since 2016. Close to one billion pounds, in under a decade.

The fourth founding principle of the NHS refers to services being based on the needs of patients. This principle welcomes feedback to the NHS from the community in order to improve services. Principle 7 declares that the NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves. The lack of accountability, however, of the Devon ICS is extremely worrying. The board’s plans will be binding. They will mean more private contracts awarded without safeguards, more down-skilling and outsourcing of NHS jobs, deregulation of professional standards, reduced services (partially replaced by ‘digital’ options and volunteers), data-sharing to suit the system, and significant spending cuts.

Our aim in STITCH has always been to oppose any cuts to health services in Torrington, and to keep our town alive to what changes are being attempted. We support the Save Our Hospital Services Devon (SOHS Devon) county wide campaign to oppose any cuts to Devon’s health service provision.”

The introduction of the so-called Together for Devon Integrated Care System is part of a drive to further privatise the NHS while dispensing with accountability to the public. STITCH believes that the NHS should be publicly funded, free at the point of use and not for profit in keeping with its founding principles and continues to campaign on that basis.