GPs demand halt to STP process amid fears of ‘severe’ NHS cuts

Dozens of GPs in an east London borough have signed a statement calling for the sustainability and transformation plan (STP) process to be halted.

More than 30 GPs – nearly one in six of the entire workforce in Tower Hamlets – as well as a number of nurses, managers and other staff from practices in the borough, warned that the requirement on NHS organisations across England to find £22bn in savings was not possible without ‘severe’ cuts to services.

The statement, published to coincide with the end-of-December deadline for NHS contracts and operational plans for the next two years to be signed off, called for STPs to be stopped and for NHS services to be adequately funded.

‘We are not against change that is clinically evidenced but we cannot sanction this financially driven exercise,’ the statement said.

Primary care minister David Mowat told the RCGP annual conference last autumn that STPs would be blocked if they are opposed by a consensus of GPs, while NHS England, which is leading the STP process, has said that GPs would be able to engage with the proposals.

But last month RCGP vice chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said the college’s ambassadors, who are supposed to be representing GPs in the local STP processes, had in some cases been blocked from seeing the plans.

STPs will have a major impact on general practice, with several forecasting significant reductions in GP numbers in their area in coming years.

Tower Hamlets CCG chair and North East London (NEL) STP clinical director, GP Sir Sam Everington, told the House of Lords last year that local health bosses had projected a 50% fall in GP numbers over the next five years across the eight-borough STP footprint.

A local transformation plan covering three of the NEL boroughs, including Tower Hamlets, aims to recruit and train more than 100 physician associates in GP practices to help offset a forecast 30% fall in GP numbers. Practices in the area could be consolidated to serve populations of 10,000 or more.

In December NEL STP bosses told local councils there could be no consultation on the whole of the STP because it was not being proposed by a single NHS organisation.

Full story in GPonline 4 January 2017