The NHS in every area of England has been tasked with setting out how it plans to achieve wide-scale changes that make the most of the funding available and improves care for patients.
These ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs) have been asked for by NHS England in response to the big challenges society faces when it comes to people’s health and the services that support them.
In total 44 STPs will be published by the NHS looking at how local services will work together to improve the quality of care, their population’s health and wellbeing and NHS finances.
The plans could involve big decisions that have implications for many local people. Although the changes will be different in every area, to get them right we believe it is important that services work hand in hand with those who use them.
Although the NHS has a legal duty to involve and consult the public when it comes to how services are planned, as well as any proposed changes to services which may impact on patients, we believe that involving the public also results in better decisions.
Five key steps to ensure communities have their say
We believe that when it comes to STPs, or any other health reform, the NHS should follow five key steps to ensure that communities have a say in decisions that will affect them.
The case for change needs to be clearly set out so that people can understand both the current situation and the reasons things might need to be done differently.
From the start, patients and the wider public should be involved in designing and discussing possible solutions to the challenges communities face.
The impact on different groups of people needs to be fully assessed and specific work undertaken with these communities to find out what they think.
The public ought to be given adequate time to consider the proposals on the table and provide feedback.
Once the final plans are agreed, they should be published and those in charge of the changes need to show how they have considered the feedback they have received, the difference this has made to their plans and how the impact of the changes will be tracked and reviewed.