News

06.07.17

Councils voice ‘serious doubts’ over likelihood of STP success

Fewer than one in four local politicians feel confident that sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) will be successful in reshaping local health and care services, it has been revealed.

In a poll conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils across England, councillors expressed concern that STPs would not deliver the targets that were originally set out for them.

Though 90% of councillors responded by saying they knew about STPs, only 21% said they were sufficiently engaged in them. On top of that, not a single respondent polled reported that their full council had been “very engaged” in their STP.

The results of the survey largely reflects a message from the LGA at the end of last year, when the CEO of the organisation Mark Lloyd said that STPs would meet opposition from authorities due to the lack of engagement that had been achieved between local government and NHS staff.

And last week, an influential director from NHS England called for greater collaborative working in STPs during a speech at the Health+Care Show in London.

This has led the LGA to call on their NHS colleagues to do more to make councillors equal partners in local STPs. The association also stated that STPs needed to be more democratically accountable through local Health and Wellbeing Boards – which it says should be given a legal duty to sign-off plans.

“Many councillors have been disappointed by the unilateral top-down approach of the NHS in some of the STP areas,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board. “As our survey results show, the majority of local politicians who responded feel excluded from the STP planning process.

“If local politicians and communities are not engaged then we have serious doubt over whether STPs will deliver on their objectives and bring benefits to communities.”

Cllr Seccombe continued to call for urgent action at national and local level to involve councillors as representatives of their local communities in a meaningful way in all aspects of STP development.

“The LGA is keen to work with NHS England to improve engagement and develop STPs in accordance with the democratic structures of local government,” she added. “For STPs to work, they need to be a genuine partnership between clinical, professional and political leaders, driving forward the change of local health and care for the better.”

But a spokesperson for NHS England told NHE that in creating STPs, it had issued a “massive open invitation to those parts of local government willing to join forces, while of course recognising that local politics can sometimes make this harder”.

“The fact that public satisfaction is more than twice as high for the NHS as it is for social care underlines the real pressure on councils,” they continued. “It should serve as a wake-up call to every part of the country about the importance of joint working, including tackling the unmet social care needs of thousands of frail older patients stuck in hospital.”

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Comments

Clued-Up   07/07/2017 at 13:12

When planning for the immediate future of the NHS, councils and STP planners alike must take note of the probability of the Conservative government collapsing within weeks. Many political commentators now think this government is doomed and that the governing party itself is in total disarray. The polls now put the Labour party 6 points ahead of the Conservatives; Corbyn is seen as a more effective leader than May. The Shadow Health Secretary and Corbyn are publicly committed to dumping the STP plans. A Labour government will prioritise meeting patients' healthcare needs, upholding clinical targets and retaining a full range of NHS services. When it's so unlikely the current government will still be in place after the next few weeks / months, it seems foolhardy in the extreme to use much of scarce NHS resources on introducing an STP programme so destabilising and so likely to be dumped long before they're "up and running".. The STP programmes are distrusted by and unpopular with the public, councillors, clinicians, GPs, etc. The Parliamentary Health Select Committee has already expressed doubts about the thinking behind these "reforms". They'll be costly to put into effect - the government hasn't the money to fund them. Why rush towards STP disaster when a few weeks of judicious waiting can produce much better and more long-lasting NHS results?

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