STPs become the latest battleground

STPs are the latest battleground in England’s NHS following a winter media focus on hospital resources.

As more information on the shape of Sustainability and Transformation Plans reaches the public domain a succession of analyses have warned that the scale of the costs involved appear to far outweigh the amount of money available.

The plans centre on the assertion joined-up NHS and local authority planning can save money in the long run and produce a more efficient (and better) model of care.

The King’s Fund issued a recent assessment warning that while it supported the aspiration for transformation identified in the Five Year Forward View back in 2014, budgets were nowhere near the “double funding” required in such cases – to pay for the current costs while setting up a replacement system.

“Without this funding, it simply may not be possible to put in place improved and expanded services in the community and accelerate and spread the development of new care models at the pace and scale needed to transform the delivery of care,” it said.

The Fund warned that issues squeezing local care systems and hospitals also meant a threat that “the urgent will drive out the important and STPs will not receive the attention they need.”

HCSA General Secretary Eddie Saville emphasised the need for the central focus to remain care not budgets: “It is a great shame that so far clinical involvement in drawing them up has been so limited. The absence of this extensive front-line knowledge has seen financial savings become the top priority rather than care quality.

“We need a pause for breath to properly assess and meet the costs of such a massive service configuration.”

Details of the 44 STPs involve hospital and service closures and could meet stiff public resistance. All eyes are now on the mid-term Five Year Forward View update due as this journal went to press.