The League has organised a public meeting on 11 January 2017 at 7pm – at the Methodist Church Hall in South Petherton – for members of the local community to find out more about NHS England’s ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs). Somerset’s STP intends that our shared experience of the health and social care system in three years will be radically different from today. In order to support our community to engage confidently with any public consultations, this event aims to share information about the STP.
Speakers will include Dr Nick Broughton, Chief Executive of Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Geoff Barr, a Governor of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital who will be speaking as a member of Keep Our NHS Public and a supporter of Save Our Hospital Services. The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group will also be represented and there will be plenty of time for questions. The meeting will start at 7pm; tea and coffee will be available from 6.30pm. We look forward to seeing you then.
We have discussed Somerset’s draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) in previous articles. The STP describes a potential future of healthcare and social services that has been developed by Somerset’s NHS leaders, the County Council and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). According to the STP, communication, engagement and consultation with patients and the public is central to the delivery of future systems and service changes – ‘…it is intended that there will be a strong community voice throughout the programme’, (p.33). In the House of Commons on Tuesday 15th November, Sir Henry Bellingham asked Jeremy Hunt to ‘confirm that there will be full consultation with different patient groups on the STP’, Mr Hunt replied: ‘I can absolutely give that assurance.’ Elsewhere, in recently published guidance for engaging local people in the development of STPs, prepared by NHS England, it is stated ‘A formal public consultation is not needed for every service change. However, it is likely to be needed should substantial changes to the configuration of health services in a local area be proposed, such as hospital closure, or significant service change’ (p.10). Somerset’s proposed STP claims that there will be ‘public engagement and involvement at all stages’ but goes on to note that there will be plans prepared for ‘formal public consultation for significant service changes arising fro the STP’ (p.33). To add to this, according to a Kings Fund report published on 14th November, ‘There has been too little time to involve clinicians and frontline staff’, and patients have been ‘largely absent from the process.’ Hence, regarding the role of patient and public participation in the development and delivery of the proposed STPs, it seems that we have muddy waters at present.
There appears to be little clarity regarding the precise meaning of public engagement and consultation and how a strong community voice will be achieved. So as to clarify expectations for all stakeholders, the proposed Somerset STP needs to communicate what aspects of the STP will be open to formal public consultation and scrutiny, such that the community voice can genuinely help to shape the future provision of local health and social services. It then needs to explain the specific mechanisms it proposes to implement for all engagement and consultation activities, as well as define what constitutes satisfactory public and patient participation.
Finally, the Kings Fund report notes that ‘collective action through STPs offers an important opportunity for improving health and care services in England’. In order to ensure that the wealth of knowledge held within the South Somerset community is garnered and used to productively influence the form and future of the STP, it is essential that we inform ourselves and make our voices heard.
We look forward to meeting you at the public meeting on 11 January 2017 at 7pm, at the Methodist Church Hall in South Petherton
Engaging local people : A guide for local areas developing Sustainability and Transformation Plans
Keep Our NHS Public: http://keepournhspublic.com
Save Our Hospital Services: http://www.sohs.org.uk