STPs (sustainability and transformation plans) will lack a sense of ownership if the consultation process is rushed or inadequate, doctors have warned.
Tyne and Wear GP George Rae told a conference on regional devolution of health services last week that he feared that many STP plans were proceeding too quickly.
Dr Rae told the Westminster Health Forum conference in London: ‘I can only speak for the north-east of England, but more than likely what’s happening in the north east is not atypical of what will be happening in other areas.
‘When I speak to doctors they’re saying the STP is being brought in under the radar.’
He said it was wrong that doctors and patients were only consulted on plans once the draft had already been approved, and that failure to properly engage risked undermining the entire STP enterprise.
‘If you’re going to have a consultation, have a genuine consultation. Have it from the onset because that’s what engenders a sense of ownership. When that happens everybody signs up to it.
‘I’m very sad that the consultation and the engagement [in his area] has not, in any shape or form up till now, been all that it should have been.’
STPs have come under recent criticism from some health leaders, with NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson warning that many of the plans currently being drawn up by trusts would prove undeliverable due to unchecked deficits and insufficient funding.
At the same conference, former health minister Lord Warner urged providers to seize on opportunities to work more closely together and devolve services.
He said: ‘I think the reality now is, as Simon Stevens said a few days ago, there’s a pretty big hill [for the NHS] to climb.
‘If you look at the numbers, it’s not too bad this year for the NHS financially, it gets worse next year [and] on present plans it’s pretty horrific in 2018/19.
‘You [health providers] haven’t got long to get going on this agenda and make sure the STPs are not just another grand NHS plan and initiative, but that something happens that does actually transform service.’
The BMA has stated that while STPs present opportunities to improve collaboration and long-term planning, it has concerns over issues such as financial viability and levels of accountability.
Find out more about STPs
Read more from Tim Tonkin and follow on Twitter.