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26.10.16

STPs being brought in ‘under the radar’ with inadequate consultation

Doctors are being excluded from the sustainability and transformation plan (STP) agenda, and will lack a sense of ownership if the consultation is rushed or inadequate, the BMA has said.

Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East BMA, told a Westminster Health Forum conference on regional devolution: “I can only speak for the north east of England, but more than likely what’s happening in the north east is not atypical of what will be happening in other areas.

“When I speak to doctors they’re saying the STP is being brought in under the radar.”

He said it was wrong that doctors and patients were only consulted on plans once the draft had already been approved, and that failure to properly engage risked undermining the entire STP enterprise.

“If you’re going to have a consultation, have a genuine consultation. Have it from the onset because that’s what engenders a sense of ownership. When that happens everybody signs up to it,” added Dr Rae.

“I’m very sad that the consultation and the engagement [in his area] has not, in any shape or form up till now, been all that it should have been.”

Lord Warner, a Labour peer and former health minister, also told the conference that health providers should “get going” to make sure that STPs were not “just another grand NHS plan and initiative” and genuinely transformed services.

He said this was needed to mitigate the “horrific” financial situation facing the NHS in 2018-19.

STPs came under fire after campaign group 38 Degrees warned recently that they could lead to service closures and were being implemented without public engagement.

North London and Birmingham and Solihull became the first STP footprints to publish their plans this week, although Cllr Sarah Hayward of Camden council said she had “serious reservations” about the STP process.

The North London plan referred to “controversial” consolidation of services.

Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, recently told the Health Select Committee that some STPs might not be delivered because of funding and political pressures.

Healthwatch England’s interim chair Jane Mordue has called for greater patient involvement in the STP process, saying that otherwise “those affected are left with little understanding of the reasons for change, unclear as to how the plans have been put together and feel ignored”.

Last week, Michael Wood, NHS local growth advisor at the NHS Confederation, wrote for NHE on the need to look outside the health sector to build some of the relationships to make final STPs a reality.

NHS England boss Simons Stevens told the Health Select Committee recently that a 1% contingency measure was being held in reserve from CCG budgets in case financially sustainable STPs could not be achieved in 2016-17.

He said STPs would be scrutinised through existing accountability measures for trusts and CCGs, and through “shared endeavour and collective accountability”.

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