So a report published this week by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has
said that Government has a lot to do to reassure the public.
The report also said that sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are delivering efficiencies and ‘not just a cover for cuts in services.’
This isn’t the first time engagement around STPs has been called into question, and unfortunately it won’t be the last. Both campaign group 38 Degrees and the Nuffield Trust recently produced reviews on STPs and arrived a similar conclusions around the lack of citizen engagement in redesigning health and care services.
The issues we face
Quite clearly there are variations in different areas, influenced by current relationships between senior leaders, a history of collaboration between organisations and the complexities of the footprint areas. There’s also the local context to consider as this will also vary somewhat across the country. And of course there is that huge budget deficit which will inevitably result in changes to service provisions
In a bid to save money and improve care quality some regions are proposing to cut the number of acute hospitals in the area, with others looking at consolidation of acute medical services and closing A&E departments at major hospitals.These plans are likely to face a backlash from the public and also opposition from some MPs. This is when engagement and collaboration are essential.
How can the public sector increase engagement?
There are two key strands of engagement required for STPs – for partnerships and the public. Toady we’ll just concentrate on engaging with the public. The public sector needs to present its service in the best way the public and to be be both clear and credible when communicating plans and any proposed changes.
It’s all about finding the right medium through which to identify and approach your audience. It is about undertaking your engagement and it is about gathering the evidence you already have and using the feedback to improve further.
It’s important not to become worried about engaging with the public. However the public reacts to your messages, you will gain valuable feedback and insight about their thinking and opinions, and you will have an opportunity to potentially re-position the service in the light of their feedback. This is a step you need not fear or delay unnecessarily, although it definitely requires you to display bravery.
The future of STPs
STPs really are at the sharp end of the NHS Five Year Plan and will perform an extremely difficult task. Made particularly difficult in the current financial climate and with the pressures and challenges already facing our health and social care services.
I agree wholeheartedly with many points of the overall vision and intent of STPs. Facilitating local government and NHS services to work in partnership, forward planning, reviewing costs and making efficiencies and savings – this is what I believe in. However, STPs involve complexities of often competing performance targets, outcomes and measure. So bringing the management of those different regimes together will not be easy.
It will be interesting to see how the STP journey unfolds but as this blog has continued to reinforce, engagement and collaboration is key. Health providers, local government and all other partners involved need to ensure they work together, and consult with frontline staff and the public, to collectively provide the best possible outcomes for patients during this challenging financial climate – and also deliver those much needed savings.