Six dailies joined their national sister title in splashing on “explosive” plans for health reform following a probe by their publisher’s investigations team.
Johnston Press newspapers The Gazette, Blackpool, Lancashire Post, The News, Portsmouth, The Star, Sheffield, the Wigan Post and the Yorkshire Post joined the i in revealing the proposed National Health Service changes, which could see 19 hospitals closed and is aimed at plugging a £22bn black hole in funding and getting community health providers to work more closely together.
The revelations come after work by the Johnston Press Investigations Unit, which is led by the Lancashire Post’s Aasma Day and features several other journalists from the company’s regional titles.
The team analysed 44 regional blueprints or ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs) drawn up by health service leaders to remodel the NHS in England, and the story has been tailored for each region covered by the newspapers running it.
Said Aasma: “Although the STP plans seem to be proposing a major shakeup of the NHS, the public seems to be in the dark as there has been little or no consultation to the point where many people do not even know what STPs are.
“The more the investigations team looked into the proposals, the more issues kept emerging. If the NHS that people hold so dearly to their hearts is going to undergo radical changes, our readers have a right to know and it is our duty to give them the full picture about any proposed cuts or closures.”
The team found the proposed shutting of 19 hospitals would be accompanied by the closure of more than 2,000 beds in acute and community hospitals, along with the loss of nearly 3,000 jobs to create a “smaller, more agile” workforce.
Emergency and maternity care also faces a major re-organisation with dozens of units marked for closure or downgrading, while in some areas specialist beds would be restricted to those who require a minimum stay of 48 hours.
Oly Duff, editor at i, said: “Until recently, these proposals were buried by health chiefs because they were considered too explosive for public consumption. Such profound changes to the NHS need critical and informed public debate.
“This is one of the largest news investigations into the future of the NHS ever undertaken – and we hope that our stories encourage serious scrutiny of the proposals.”