Citizens must get a say in NHS sustainability and transformation plans

The public has been locked out of the plans so far, but it’s not too late to increase engagement in the design, commissioning and delivery of care.

A recent report on sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) has sparked quite a debate about the importance of citizen engagement in redesigning health and care services.

The report, commissioned by the campaign group 38 Degrees and produced by health policy consultancy Incisive Health, found that the “extent of ‘co-production’ with patients and the public appears to have been limited” in the plans. The Nuffield Trust, in its review of STPs, arrived at a similar conclusion.

NHS England has since published a guide on community engagement, which is welcome news. But guidance, as we know, is never enough on its own. We need concerted action at all levels to ensure STPs aren’t a wasted opportunity for meaningful involvement.

We have been here before. Earlier in the decade, in an attempt to shift costs out of hospitals and into communities, the NHS ran what were called “acute service reconfigurations”. This involved reshaping services at a sub-regional level.

Not only were these met with public protests, but the lack of citizen engagement led to ill-considered plans that didn’t reflect people’s aspirations or needs. We must avoid the same thing happening with STPs. Engaging people should not merely be a step in the process, but part of everything we do. We must think all the time about how we can involve citizens in the design, commissioning and delivery of services.

Full story in The Guardian 25 November 2016