STP deadline day: reflections and next steps

map with pins

As local areas prepare to submit their sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) on Thursday, we take a look at what STP leaders have made of the inaugural process and its role in reshaping care.

Over the last six months, local areas have embarked on a new approach to planning health and care across localities, following a mandate to develop sustainability and transformation plans issued in the 2016/17 planning guidance.

Forty-four ‘footprint areas’, the geographic regions for STPs, are due to submit their final plans on Thursday (30 June), to be assessed by the national NHS throughout July.

Six months on from their inception, and just two weeks before the submission deadline, the NHS Confederation brought together STP leads from across the country to share ideas, discuss difficulties and prepare for the crucial next step – implementation. Here’s what they told us.

Accelerated pace of transformation

Feedback on the new approach to planning – shared at a session at the Confederation’s annual conference and exhibition in Manchester – was broadly positive. 

Leaders said the planning process had played an important role in getting people around the table, and had accelerated the pace of transformation planning in their area. 

Local areas were able to build on existing local plans and solutions and have frank discussions about behaviours and working together. The planning process has shown many areas are willing to think about workforce, estates and planning across a wider area.

‘Political air cover’

But leaders were clear that certain issues, particularly around funding uncertainties and high expectations, need to be addressed if STPs are to live up to their full potential. Tough decisions will need to be made in the near future and local leaders will require ‘political air cover’ to push these through, they said. 

The ambition of STPs also needs to be matched with funding, they argued, along with an appreciation that while it might be possible to narrow the financial gap using transformation, it would be a tall order to get rid of it entirely.

What have national NHS leaders said about STPs?

Take a look the these three-minute clips of the heads of NHS England and NHS Improvement talking about STPs at the Confederation's annual conference.


Next steps: from planning to implementing

The plans submitted on Thursday will form the basis for a face-to-face conversation with the national NHS leadership throughout July as the plans are assessed.

To continue to support those with a strategic role in STPs, the Confederation is holding a one-day workshop on the potential barriers to implementation, providing practical support on developing relationships within STP footprints. 

STPs: planning for a place-based future, on 20 July in London, is free to attend and will feature contributions and insights from across the health and care sector.

For more information, or to book your place, please visit the event page.

Getting the place into planning, a session at the NHS Confederation annual conference and exhibition on 17 June, explored and shared solutions to many of the challenges facing those drawing up STPs. You can access the presentations from the conference website.

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