Huge council engagement effort on STPs needed to make up lost ground
STPs must look to move away from “jargon and technical language” in order to clearly explain their purpose and rationale to lay readers, a report by the King’s Fund has revealed.
The review into STPs also stated that a “huge effort is now required to make up lost ground” to engage, consult and explain the case for STPs and what benefits they could deliver to improving social care services.
The Kings’ Fund went on to say that: “There is no readily available narrative that explains, in plain English, the rationale for STPs and what they mean for the public, underlining the communications challenge going forward.”
The report analysed the system of working of England’s 44 STPs and found that whilst they are the way forward for the NHS and social care, greater engagement with clinicians, patients and councils as well as greater transparency between STP developers and local government was needed in order to save a social care system in “crisis”.
Talking about the need for greater communication between STP developers and local councils the report stated: “STPs remain fragile and nascent additions to an already cluttered landscape, and their place in the governance of the NHS needs to be clarified to avoid unhelpful ambiguity and complexity.
“An urgent priority is to extend involvement in the development and implementation of STPs beyond the relatively small number of leaders within the NHS who have done much of the work to date. This means reaching out to staff, patients and the public as well as local authorities and the third sector. It will also require much more meaningful engagement with local and national politicians, whose understanding and support is essential if some if the more radical proposals in the plans are to be implemented.”
It also went on to look at new models of care that combined social services and health services, stressing the importance that there was collaboration and transparency between local government and NHS services, “to use existing health and social care services in the community more effectively and to fill gaps in provision”.
Combining care more effectively could save NHS services money by allowing care to be administered at home and avoid patients being forced to go straight to frontline NHS care services.
However, the King’s Fund also addressed the growing concern over cuts to local council budgets by saying: “Cuts to local government funding, including public health budgets, will make it difficult to sustain existing preventive services, let alone expand them.”
The LGA responded positively to the research stating that its warning about the dangers of cutting social and public care budgets and the need to improve prevention services and keep people out of hospital was welcome.
Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “Councils see STPs as an important vehicle in redesigning local care and health services to improve health and wellbeing, and the quality of care.
“But we will be unable to achieve this without genuinely new money for social care. It is only by properly investing in social care that we can alleviate the pressures on the NHS.”
Cllr Seccombe also praised the report for highlighting the need to engage both the public and local authorities in STP development plans.
She added: “We have long warned that STPs can only be effective if councillors and communities are at the heart of the planning process. It is vital they are involved and not just consulted afterwards on pre-determined solutions. Any failure to engage councillors could lead to vociferous opposition.”
Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund, commented: “Local plans must be considered on their merits, but where a convincing case for change has been made, ministers and local politicians should back NHS leaders in implementing essential and often long-overdue changes to services.”
“A huge effort is needed make up lost ground by engaging with staff, patients and the public to explain the case for change and the benefits that will be delivered.
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