The BMA has written to all MPs in England asking them whether they are aware of the impact which NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans will have on services in their local area. We also outline our concerns about the lack of engagement with clinical staff.
Our letter, to all English MPs, is below:
NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) - the five year plans that 44 'footprint areas' across England have been tasked with forming to transform services and deal with NHS deficits - have recently come in to the media spotlight, and for good reason, their impact on local NHS and care services could be huge.
The BMA has been tracking their progress and development since their announcement.
They have now submitted the detail of their plans to NHS England. The impact of these plans will be significant; positive, or negative. Unfortunately, and we believe, detrimentally, these plans have not been made public and have throughout their formation had scant levels of public or professional consultation.
The plans do potentially offer an opportunity for organisations across the health and social care system to work together and develop health policies suited to local needs. For them to be successful it is crucial that there is sufficient public awareness, that they are drawn up in an open and transparent way, and that they have the support and involvement of clinicians, patients and the public from the outset. Unfortunately, we simply do not have confidence that this is happening.
I am writing to ask you, as a constituency MP, whether you are aware of the impact of these proposed changes on services in your local area. As STPs are not a statutory process, there is currently no duty placed upon them to consult with stakeholders. A consequence of this is that there has been little to no engagement with clinical staff locally. A change on this scale needs to have proper clinical and legal accountability. From what information is available, we know that some plans cut hospital beds, close A&E departments, and restructure maternity services.
As we have seen in the debate over NHS funding in recent weeks, many existing services are already at risk of financial collapse and we are becoming increasingly concerned that the primary focus of STPs is not on delivering the best possible patient care, but in cutting back budgets and, therefore, services. These plans commit local areas to make further savings based on a worrying lack of evidence. We are concerned that any potential opportunities within the plans will be overshadowed by the fact that they are an inadequate response to the real crisis - the long-term underfunding of patient care.
The BMA believes that meaningful input from clinicians, patients and the public, is essential. We are therefore calling for all plans to be made public as soon as possible. As a constituency MP we would welcome any information or concerns you have about the proposals in your area and encourage you to call on the government to publish these plans in full immediately.
BMA council chair