The introduction of overall financial targets to each regional health system to underpin sustainability and transformation plans (STP) could be a “game changer”, according to one local leader heavily involved in the process.
Leader of Blackpool BC Simon Blackburn (Lab), who is also chair of the shadow Lancashire combined authority, said the NHS England planning guidance for the next two years would help to turn a commitment to joint working between councils and the NHS into “something tangible”.
The guidance says transformation funding, which is necessary to deliver key service changes and new models of care, will “only be available to systems whose operational plans meet their required control total and performance trajectories”.
The Local Government Association has expressed concern that the NHS has failed to fully involve councils in the STP process, raising doubts that councillors will back proposals for major reorganisation of NHS services
The NHS guidance published yesterday reaffirms a requirement to strengthen joint working with local government in planning new care models in the 44 STP footprints that “foster stronger collaboration across services”.
The guidance requires NHS organisations to devise plans with councils to enhance community provision for people with learning disabilities.
It adds: “NHS England, NHS Improvement, Health Education England, the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England, NHS Digital and NICE are committed to working in a joined up way, together with local government, to support STP areas.”
Cllr Blackburn, who also chairs of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, told LGC that it was “inevitable” that STPs would focus on NHS savings targets, but said this could “spur people into action”.
He added: “For the first time there is an understanding that to achieve the savings that are marked down, the NHS will require the skills of local government and our ability to communicate with communities – that is absolutely essential.
“[The guidance] has the potential to be a game-changer, depending on how well clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts work with local authorities, particularly combined authorities.”
Many of the NHS organisations that were split into 44 regional planning areas and tasked with developing a STP for their geographic footprint have large underlying financial deficits.
The guidance says all providers and clinical commissioning groups will be “held accountable for delivering both their individual control total and the relevant overall system control total”.
It adds the system-wide targets will “reduce the incentives for individual organisations to optimise their own financial position at the expense of the wider system”.
Large STP areas can also apply to split into “subdivisions”, with each working to a separate control total, the planning guidance says.
NHS England has said it expected most of the STP plans would be made public by the end of the year