Health Select Committee launches inquiry into STPs
Earlier this week we received word that the House of Commons’ Select Committee on Health had launched an inquiry in the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). This news got snowed under following NHS England’s ‘Next Steps’ report which we commented on earlier but it is very important it gets the attention it deserves. It is, however, unclear why they have started this. The Committee is calling for written evidence on a set of questions – the most important ones from a consultation and engagement point of view are the following:
- What governance, management and leadership arrangements need to be created to enable STP planning and implementation to be carried out effectively?
- What legislative, policy and/or other barriers are there to effective STP governance and implementation, and what needs to be done by national bodies and national leaders in the NHS to support the implementation of STPs?
- What public engagement will be necessary to enable STPs to succeed, and how should that engagement be undertaken?
- How effective have STPs been in joining up health and social care across individual footprints, and in engaging parts of the system outside the acute healthcare sector, for example local authorities, public health, mental health and voluntary sector partners?
The Health Committee wants to look at the STPs in more detail as to what governance, leadership and management arrangements need to be made for them to live up to its promised intentions. There is a huge potential for public involvement in the creation of STPs but many people fear that many NHS ‘footprints’ have missed the boat on this. It is very important then to make up for lost ground by securing public involvement in any future service reconfiguration consultation. The danger with a cross-party inquiry is that it might lend itself to party politics but given the different spectrum of political colours in all 44 ‘footprints’, we expect the Committee Members to not fall foul of this.
So far it is clear that some of the questions the Committee is asking can already be answered. Last week the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS was critical of current engagement models and lamented the fact that local authorities and communities, in some ‘footprints’, were excluded from involvement. Then there is the issue of governance and accountability. Confusion abounds as to who it is who is exactly leading on an STP. Since it is a non-statutory body, who makes the decisions? Who’s responsible for the consultation? Can these loose bodies actually take decisions affecting the public’s “national treasure”? What money is there available to achieve the desired transformations of local health services? Failure to clarify this will muddy the waters and will prevent local support for service reconfigurations. We, therefore, applaud the Health Committee’s inquiry into STPs and are preparing our own submission, with the possibility of providing oral evidence later this Spring.
If you’d want to share your thoughts with us on STPs, get in touch for a confidential chat via firstname.lastname@example.org.