Skip to main content

Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2016

6. What discussions he has had with local government representatives on the sustainability and transformation plan process. (907202)

The STPs are a collaborative local effort, involving providers and commissioners coming together with other stakeholders to produce place-based plans. The vast majority of plans have been developed jointly between the health sector and local authorities. Several plans have been led by local government.

Yesterday, the King’s Fund rightly characterised what is euphemistically called the sustainability and transformation project as being planned in secret, behind the backs of patients and the public. In Merseyside and Wirral, we know from leaks that the Government are going to cut £1 billion from our local national health service, which, despite rising demand, will close hospitals, downgrade many accident and emergency departments and possibly leave the whole of Wirral without an acute hospital. Will the Minister now come clean and publish these plans in full, and will he undertake to visit Wirral so that my constituents in Wallasey can come and have a word with him about his plans for their NHS?

To be clear, every single STP will be published by Christmas. About 12 have been published so far, and the Cheshire and Merseyside STP will be published tomorrow. When the hon. Lady has access to it, she will see that some of the statements she is making are just scaremongering. She mentioned the King’s Fund, so let me quote it:

“The King’s Fund continues to believe that STPs offer the best hope of delivering long term improvements to health and care services.”

That is what the King’s Fund says.

20. Will the Minister ensure that NHS managers undertaking the STP process affecting North Devon are fully aware of my constituents’ concerns, especially in relation to our geographical isolation? In particular, will he ensure that they are aware of their concerns in Ilfracombe, which has suffered from decades of health inequality because of its location? (907218)

It is vital that every STP engages with all stakeholders, and that includes North Devon. The public and, indeed, MPs should engage in the process as critical friends to try to make these plans better.

Despite reassurances, there are still concerns that mental health remains peripheral to STPs in many areas. Will the Minister provide some further reassurance, because unless the Government absolutely insist that mental health is central and that resources are focused on prevention in mental health, these plans will simply fail?

I give the right hon. Gentleman the categorical assurance that better mental health is a fundamental part of what the STPs are trying to achieve, as are better cancer outcomes and better integration of adult social care. If an STP does not include those things, it will have to continue to evolve until it does.

The Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson, and I have a common approach to the STP in Bedford—it is ably led by Pauline Philip, the chief executive officer of Luton and Dunstable hospital—but he is frustrated that he is not being involved and that his voice is not being heard in the process. Will my hon. Friend ensure, when he reviews all the STPs, that he gets a guarantee in every single case that the local authorities have bought into the plan, and, if not, that they will not proceed?

I give my hon. Friend the categorical assurance that if local authorities and the NHS managers doing the planning work have not engaged properly, the plan will not be considered to be complete. That does not mean that every local authority has a veto on its STP.

Following on from that point, the Minister has previously said that STPs will

“not go ahead if councils believe they have been marginalised.”

Given that seven councils in London and west Yorkshire have already rejected their STPs and, as we have heard, that council leaders from both main parties have expressed concerns about the Cheshire and Merseyside proposals, does the Minister have a plan B when it comes to rejected STPs?

In a previous answer, I made the point that every local authority should be engaging with its STP, and the NHS must ensure that that happens. That is not the same as saying that every local authority has a veto on the STP, which was the implication of the hon. Gentleman’s point.