Health service Success Regime cost more than £6 million
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on hugely-unpopular plans to overhaul the local NHS, campaigners say.
Figures show the Government’s so-called Success Regime – which has now been formally disbanded after its controversial plans were approved – has cost £6.2 million, leading to it being branded a “successful failure”.
The Success Regime was launched two years ago to bring local NHS bodies together to tackle long-standing problems, including financial deficits, workforce issues, ageing population and geography.
Led by Sir Neil McKay, who has led similar consultations elsewhere, it promised to take a fresh approach, working alongside communities and NHS staff to come up with innovative solutions.
Initially its ideas included closing community hospital beds across north and west Cumbria and downgrading maternity, paediatrics and urgent care services at the West Cumberland Hospital.
Yet, despite widespread opposition and serious safety concerns throughout the consultation – including a 10,000 signature petition handed over as part of the News & Star’s Save Our Services (SOS) campaign – the Success Regime has continued to push ahead with these plans.
NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body did agree to give consultant-led maternity a one year reprieve to tackle recruitment issues, but if this is unsuccessful the unit will be downgraded and mums in labour sent to Carlisle.
Although medical beds in Maryport, Wigton and Alston are earmarked for closure, the CCG has also agreed to work with the three communities on alternative plans, which could include some care beds.
Campaigners across the area are refusing to give up on the services and are continuing the fight against the closures.
The announcement that the Success Regime has now come to an end, leaving local health bosses to press ahead with the changes, has prompted a fresh backlash from people in Cumbria.
Many are angry that the Government has spent roughly £6.2m on the project, which they say has ignored the opinions of both local medical staff and the wider community and failed to deliver what it promised.
The money includes legal fees, consultancy costs and fees to an external communications company, plus the cost of public meetings.
Lynne Davies, from the We Need West Cumberland Hospital group, added: “I think their definition of success was always totally different to the communities.
“We welcomed the new inclusive approach with a renewed sense of hope, then they fell at the first hurdle when they chose to ignore us.
“As far as I am concerned the Success Regime has been an expensive failure for the taxpayer.”
Alston hospital campaigner Alice Bondi said is angry at the Regime’s claims it is leaving the area’s health service in better shape.
“To say this is absurd is an understatement, since firstly most of what they have recommended is yet to be implemented so they can’t possibly judge whether anything is ‘better’, and secondly the definition of better doesn’t seem to include making people across the region feel more confident that they will get the healthcare they need,” she said.
“To call the plans ‘credible’ is laughable, since no-one outside the inner circle seems to believe in them.
“Had the £6.2m been spent on ensuring we had the staff, training and facilities that are actually needed, we would all be enjoying a much better health service.
“It’s not what I would call ‘success’.”
Bill Barnes, from the Maryport Save Our Beds group, believes the Regime was brought in as part of a wider Government agenda to strip services and cut costs.
“There was never going to be any negotiation,” he said.
Annette Robson, also of the West Cumberland Hospital group, added: “At a cost of £6.2m pounds we expected the Success Regime to find a way to provide the services that we need and deserve.”
Despite the criticism, Cumbrian health bosses now insist they have a “credible plan” for delivering sustainable services.
Stephen Eames, chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust, said: “We recognise that it has been a challenging time for staff and our communities while we have had these difficult conversations and made difficult decisions.”