News

21.02.17

King’s Fund: Politicians must back radical health changes for STPs to work

The King’s Fund has become the latest organisation to argue that although STPs offer the best hope of delivering NHS reform, the government must also be prepared to back radical changes to health services to ensure they can be successful in the future.

In a report released today, the health care think tank echoed the sentiments of other organisations such as Reform that engagement with staff, patients and the public remains a key topic in future STP growth, and that at present not enough is being done to create a dialogue between care providers and patients.

It supported reforms to the system where the case for change has been made, such as changes to the role of acute  hospitals to concentrate specialist services “where the evidence shows this will deliver better outcomes for patients”.

The point was also made once again that additional funding was needed for both health and social care to ensure STPs hit their care targets.

Its findings came just a few months after the think tank’s chief executive, Chris Ham, argued that if STPs do not work, then there is no plan B.

Today’s analysis looked at all 44 STPs in England and found that they presented a great opportunity to move care closer to patients, and in turn reduce growing pressure on hospitals by freeing up beds in already struggling A&E departments.

The review also found that the context in which STPs find themselves is far more challenging than the government anticipated in the Five Year Forward View, and that they needed more time to deliver reform for the NHS.

In it, the King’s Fund warned that focus on tackling financial and operational pressures could be negative in diverting attention away from work being done to transform care.

The report also called for “greater realism about the time needed to implement the changes that have been put forward and the leadership and governance required as STPs move to implement their proposals”.

Commenting on the latest findings, Ham said: “It is not credible for the government to argue that it has backed the NHS’s own plan unless it is prepared to support changes to services outlined in STPs.

“Local plans must be considered on their merits, but where a convincing case for change has been made, ministers and local politicians should back NHS leaders in implementing essential and often long-overdue changes to services.”

Ham went on to emphasise that a “huge effort” is needed to “make up lost ground by engaging with staff, patients and the public to explain the case for change and the benefits that will be delivered”.

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