Mr Madders, a shadow health minister, makes it clear he is not opposed to a transformation of the health service but says recently published plans which have been drawn up across the country are ‘another reorganisation of the NHS’ which until this month have been kept behind closed doors.
Mr Madders disclosed in the House of Commons he had submitted Freedom of Information requests to NHS England and to the 44 areas in which the strategic transformation plans (STPs) were being prepared to no avail.
Not only were the public locked out of contributing to the plans they could not even find out what was happening, he argued.
Concerns arose locally when radical plans emerged to move Wirral and Chester’s hospital services to a new super-site near Ellesmere Port.
The bombshell NHS report suggested Arrowe Park, Clatterbridge and the Countess of Chester hospitals could merge into a single site.
This was downplayed by NHS bosses at the time but official documents have now revealed merger discussions are under way.
Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge, says in its 2015/16 annual report: “The trust will explore with the Countess of Chester Hospital the potential for the development of a single acute general hospital covering Wirral and west Cheshire within the next 10-15 years.”
The report says there are ‘clinical and financial benefits’ to come from working more closely with the Countess of Chester.
Another option is to move all planned surgery and procedures to Clatterbridge while Arrowe Park would deal mainly with emergencies.
Chief executive of Wirral’s hospital trust David Allison said it was ‘important to rule out extreme suggestions such as the building of a new hospital, at an early stage’.
Mr Madders says: “It is not just a reorganisation but an admission, as if we did not already know it, that the Government got the last one wrong.
“The opposition do not need persuading that there is a benefit to more localised strategic oversight of the NHS and the health sector.
“We know that because we opposed the Government’s decision to scrap strategic health authorities. Unlike the strategic health authorities they are now trying to replace, there is no statutory basis for STPs and there is no scrutiny or transparency at all.
“Despite this, they are being asked to go further than anybody has ever had to in the entire history of the NHS in terms of the cuts they are being asked to make.”
These cuts have been ‘cooked up behind closed doors’ says Mr Madders ‘without the involvement of patients, carers, clinicians, trade unions and staff’.
He concludes: “Nobody believes that it will be a success without genuine accountability, adequate funding and proper engagement with local authorities who hold the key to integration between the NHS and social care.
“Unfortunately clarity and openness have been lacking, as has the level of funding required and I am calling on ministers to take urgent steps to address this.”
Earlier this week, Chester MP Chris Matheson (Lab) spoke out against the plans and vowed to press on with his #countesscounts campaign.
Mr Matheson told The Chronicle: “As regards to the merger plans, I warned about this several weeks ago and was assured it was not on the cards. So I’m not best pleased to find it back under discussion."