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MPs raise concerns over STPs

Government must prove changes are 'not just a cover for cuts'

Mark Gould

Monday, 27 February 2017

The influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has today raised serious concerns about the ability of local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) to deliver meaningful improvements to health and social care.

In a new report, the Committee warns that central government is asking the NHS and local authorities "to solve multiple problems and deliver a range of priorities" without a proper understanding of what can be achieved, concluding: "Transformation under such pressure is hard to achieve."

The report highlights concerns that action to restore financial stability is affecting patients’ access to services and their experience of care, and warns of the potentially damaging consequences of "repeated raids" on investment funds to meet day-to-day spending.

The government has much more to do before the public can feel confident that local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are about delivering transformation and efficiencies “and not just a cover for cuts in services", the Committee concludes.

Among its recommendations, the Committee says the government should set out urgently a "clear and transparent recovery plan" targeting NHS bodies and health economies in severe financial difficulty.

NHS England and NHS Improvement must explain how they will support transformation in areas where STPs fall short and take action to "convince the public of the benefits of the plans to them".

It also calls on the government to publish its assessment of whether there is the capacity in NHS bodies "to deliver everything they are expected to within the agreed timeframes".

Responding to the report, Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair of council, said the MPs were "the latest in a long line of people growing sceptical about the success of STPs".

“We already know that the vital funding needed to carry out these plans simply isn’t available – our own analysis found that STPs need at least £9.5 billion of capital funding to be delivered successfully but this cash doesn’t exist," Dr Porter said.

"The capital budget is already being raided and, as this report highlights, robbing Peter to pay Paul will only be bad for patient care in the long run,” he added.

Dr Porter argued that the NHS is at breaking point "because politicians have chosen to underfund our health and social care system and ignore the warnings of healthcare professionals".

“Tragically it is our patients who are unfairly suffering the consequences of these bad choices,” he said.

“The concern for patients, the public and NHS staff is that the government doesn’t have an answer to the £30 billion funding shortfall in the NHS in England. Now is the time to put politics to one side and reach a cross-party consensus on how to tackle this crisis in the long term by funding services to meet the needs that we know patients have,” Dr Porter concluded.

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