What issues have been raised about this STP?
The closure of one of the three A&E departments in the county, with the A&E at Stafford Hospital most likely to close. It would be replaced with a 24 hour urgent care centre. Campaigners have branded the plans as “devastating cuts to the NHS."
Closure of community hospitals. 167 hospital beds will be cut - 85 at Longton and Cheadle and 20 at Haywood Hospital.
June 2017 update: Leek Morlands Hospital will be closed in October 2017. Beds have been cut at Bradwell, Cheadle and Longton.
There have been protests against the closure of beds in community hospitals, with protesters pointing out that the bed closures began before any consultation had taken place. There is an active campaign to save Leek Moorlands hospital from closure.
Reconfiguration of minor injuries units is planned with 75% of the activity transferred to the community and 25% to local A&E.
In official documents leaked to the HSJ and reported by the Independent, cost cutting measures for the Staffordshire could include: Longer waiting times for elective care, Closure of wards and theatres, Staffing cuts and ending some treatments.
What are the proposed aims of the STP?
- Elimination of the projected financial gap which by 2020/21 will be more £286 million. The solutions outlined in the STP are expected to deliver £245 million in savings, but will require £120 million to enact;
- Improve prevention services to improve the health of the area;
- Enhance primary and community care;
- Simplify urgent and emergency care system;
- Reduce the cost of services;
- Ensure effective and efficient planned care;
- Overall the STP is focused on reducing admissions to the acute care sector and moving care into the community.
The STP plan does not contain detailed information on how it will achieve its stated aims and eliminate the deficit.
In June 2017 the HSJ reported on discussions between NHS Improvement and NHS England on what certain STP areas will be required to do to enable them to spend less money and remain within a budget known as a 'control total' for 2017/18. The target areas include Staffordshire. The measures under discussion include the following:
- Limiting the number of operations carried out by non-NHS providers so the funding stays within the NHS. Considerations differ between areas but include both limiting patients’ choice of providers, and reducing work which is outsourced by NHS trusts. In some cases it would require the NHS to find the capacity to carry out more operations.
- Systematically drawing out waiting times for planned care, including explicit consideration of breaching NHS constitution standards. Some plan to target delays at specialties/areas where waits are currently lower than average.
- Stopping NHS funding for some treatments, including extending limits on IVF, adding to lists of “low value” treatments, and seeking to delay or avoid funding some treatments newly approved by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence.
- Closing wards and theatres and reducing staffing, while seeking to maintain enough emergency care capacity to deal with winter pressures.
- Closing or downgrading services, with some considering changes to flagship departments like emergency and maternity - though these would normally take too long to deliver savings this year.
- Selling estate and other “property related transactions”.
- Stopping prescriptions for some items, as suggested by NHS Clinical Commissioners earlier this year.
The commissioners in the area told the HSJ that they have been told to examine “difficult decisions” and “think the unthinkable”, including modelling changes which are normally avoided as they are too unpleasant, unpopular or controversial.
The STP includes the establishment of a multispecialty community provider to deliver integrated community care.