Blog: The NHS’ Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Many people have been in touch with me recently with concerns about the NHS’ Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). I share these concerns and have been pushing for full public consultation, as well as making my opposition to any service cuts clear.  I have been asking questions in Parliament about this issue, as well as pushing for information and clarity on what this process will mean for our local services on the ground.

To provide a bit of background on process: NHS England published a document just before Christmas last year,  called Delivering the Forward View: NHS planning guidance 2016/17 – 2020/21. It calls on ‘local health systems’, consisting of ‘clinicians, patients, carers, citizens, and local community partners including the independent and voluntary sectors, and local government through health and wellbeing boards’, to ‘work together to develop robust plans to transform the way that health and care is planned and delivered for their populations’.

For this purpose England has been divided into 44 ‘local health systems’. Each of their ‘footprints’ covers, on average, 1.2 million people, three or four local councils and some 5 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) Each of these ‘local health systems’ was called on to produce, by the end of June this year, a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) covering the next five years.  As I understand it, CCGs and providers must – somehow – cut their expenditure and stay within budget in order to earn access to centrally controlled ‘transformation’ funding.

However, forcing CCGs and providers to cut their expenditure in order to earn access to such funding seems entirely wrong-headed to me.

I am keeping a close eye on the process and pushing to ensure that local people have a say. For starters, we must have transparency and accountability.  The shape of our NHS should not be subject to secretive and dysfunctional decision making.  Imposing these plans on top of the discredited system created by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act is not going to deliver what is needed to provide the best care for patients.

I have been told that consultation will happen ‘where required’ and I have made it clear that the criteria for that must include evidence of local support for consultation.  I am also continuously pushing for the STP to be made public.  So far, I have been told that “we will publish our STP to all national bodies on 21st October 2016.  At the same time we will provide an explanation of how local people and communities can continue to engage with the ongoing development of the STP.”  I have asked for clarification about exactly what this means and whether the STP will actually be made public on that date, as it is not clear what ‘publishing to national bodies’ means.

Crucially, I am also pushing for answers about whether any services will be cut or reduced as a result of demands to close financial gaps. The NHS in Sussex and East Surrey is already short of the funds it needs to balance its books, yet the Government is pushing for yet more ‘savings’. Given the funding crisis in the NHS and the huge staffing and other problems, I am extremely concerned that it is unrealistic to suggest money can be saved without cuts or service reductions.  I would like to assure you that, as your MP, I will continue to actively push for more information to be released, and to stand up in defence of our NHS services and against cuts.

What we really need is a radical reversal of the deliberate Government policy of underfunding and running down our health service.  We spend 2.5% less of our GDP on health than countries like France and Germany – that’s unacceptable. Ministers must start funding the NHS properly – and that means public funding, not via privatisation. Moreover, if they stopped the waste that is central to their privatisation model, then in the longer term, genuine savings could be made.

I will continue to take up every opportunity to stand up for the NHS. It really is a scandal for the Government to keep dressing up cuts as ‘efficiency savings’ but people are speaking out, from so many different quarters, and we must keep building on the amazing backing that is out there to save our NHS.


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