Councils could take over more health functions post-STPs, says NHS boss
Local authorities could take on more of a leadership role for some traditional NHS functions, following their involvement in the formation of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), the head of the health service has said.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation annual conference, Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, said that in some areas of the country, as part of the STP conversation, “I’ve grown to be very impressed by the quality of the leadership the local authorities themselves can bring to some of the health service’s issues”.
“I wouldn’t be surprised, if coming out of the STP process, we don’t decide that in some places the local authorities might take on more of a leadership role for parts of, what have traditionally been, NHS functions,” Stevens added.
However, PSE revealed recently that a series of emerging obstacles in the STP drafting process across London means that fully formed plans might not be achievable by the 30 June deadline, which our sister title, NHE, highlighted has been watered down to a ‘work in progress’.
The pace of the STP process, which has moved relatively quickly since its creation late last year, is also “creating tensions in the system”, especially in areas where sub-regional working is in its infancy.
Stevens noted though that some of the issues affecting the NHS can be difficult to be seen from an internal perspective: “Sometimes you are so close to it you don’t see the problem for what it is, and actually local authority chief execs and leaders in some places, I have felt, have brought a great sense of objectivity to the analysis.”
Following a PSE investigation, it was highlighted that health devolution could be a more effective solution to place-based health and social care integration than STPs, despite the latter being hailed as the ideal solution to regional health systems.
Additionally, council involvement in the ongoing STPs, designed to integrate health and social care across 44 ‘footprints’, has been inconsistent nationwide, with over two-thirds of councils shut out from STP health leadership talks.