Patience required for STPs to bring about change, says NHS Confed boss

Patience with STPs is needed if they are going to be successful, the NHS Confederation chief has said in response to a major King’s Fund report on STPs that was released today.

The report had analysed England’s 44 STPs and found that whilst they are the best chance for reform, they also required additional funding and support from central government to be successful.

Responding to the findings in a statement, Niall Dickson, chief executive for NHS Confederation, said: “The good news is that this timely report recognises that the NHS and social care services have begun to work together in new ways to change the way care and treatment is delivered.

“But it also shows that this takes time and yet again provides more evidence, if it were needed, that social care urgently needs more funding.”

The Confed leader also gave credit to the government and NHS England for putting in place important schemes designed to drive reform, but stressed that patience was needed to bring about necessary change.

“What is being asked of local organisations is unprecedented and the STPs are having to drive this forward in extremely difficult circumstances,” he concluded.

NHS Providers also commented on the report, arguing there are currently “too many obstacles” in the way for STPs to be a success.

Its director of policy and strategy, Saffron Cordery, who writes regularly for NHE, added: “STPs could play a vital role in developing better health and care services for patients. But there are many obstacles.

Too often politicians seek to block changes, even when they are clearly in patients’ best interests. We support The King’s Fund’s call for ministers and local politicians to back radical change where the evidence supports it.”

However, said Cordery, the proposals drawn up by STPs need to be credible.

“This will require a more realistic timescale, and – as the report points out – better engagement with staff, patients and the public,” she concluded.

NHS Clinical Commissioners CEO Julie Wood also welcomed the King’s Fund review, agreeing that STPs provide “a real opportunity to drive collaboration across the health and care system for the benefit of local people”. But if they are to succeed, she added, “it is critical that we get governance and engagement right”.

“The pressures being faced are also evident in this report and resonate with what we are hearing from our members, who are having to make difficult decisions on a daily basis to make sure that the patients and populations they serve are provided with the best possible healthcare,” said Wood.

“Support from ministers and local politicians in backing reforms where evidence shows this is the right thing to do will be essential if real transformation is to be made and the aims of STPs closing the health and wellbeing gap, the care and quality gap, and the finance and efficiency gap achieved.”

The coalition of health and care charities, National Voices, also described the findings of the think tank’s report as “not acceptable or tenable”.

Its chief executive, Jeremy Taylor, added: “The STP process is not without flaws, but it has the potential to create sustainable health and care services that meet 21st century needs.

“This will only work if there is proper engagement of the people who rely on NHS and social care services, and adequate funding to deliver the much needed changes.”

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