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Nurses will be 'vital' to success of new plans to reform NHS

Involving nurses in new controversial plans to reform England's health and care system will be vital to their success, says the RCN.

Involving nurses in new controversial plans to reform England's health and care system will be vital to their success, says the RCN.

A new report from health think tank the King's Fund today says government must throw its weight behind plans which could lead to the closure of some NHS hospitals and other services.

The sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) cover 44 areas of England and will reconfigure services requiring hospitals, community providers and social care to work together in a more integrated way and save money.

In several regions, the aim is to close or downgrade entire hospitals, while others suggest closing emergency or maternity departments, or merging some services.

Resourcing could undermine plans

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said the

Involving nurses in new controversial plans to reform England's health and care system will be vital to their success, says the RCN.


Janet Davies, RCN chief executive has given a warning over the STP plans revealed today
Picture: Barney Newman

A new report from health think tank the King's Fund today says government must throw its weight behind plans which could lead to the closure of some NHS hospitals and other services.

The sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) cover 44 areas of England and will reconfigure services requiring hospitals, community providers and social care to work together in a more integrated way and save money.

In several regions, the aim is to close or downgrade entire hospitals, while others suggest closing emergency or maternity departments, or merging some services.

Resourcing could undermine plans

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said the college supported 'the amibtions of STPs', namely – preventing ill health, joining up services and delivering care closer to home. 

'However, without proper resourcing of the whole health and care system and without sufficient planning to ensure there are enough staff, these aims run the risk of being undermined from the outset.' she warned.

Release warning

NHS England ordered local health leaders not to reveal the plans to the public or media until they were finalised and approved by their own officials first.

It even told local managers to refuse applications from the media or the public wanting to see the proposals under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ms Davies said the college had ongoing concerns about the way STPs have been developed so far, 'behind closed doors'.

She added: 'Involving nurses and other health and care staff in this immense transformation project will be vital to its success.

'The RCN urges the government to ensure that next month’s budget recognises these challenges and addresses them head on.'

Political backing

The King's Fund report said there is currently an 'uncertain' level of political backing fro STPs, which were ordered to be drawn up by NHS England.

It argues politicians must face up to having difficult conversations with the public about which services should close. 

Reconfiguring services 'stands little chance of being implemented without support from the government and a willingness to back NHS leaders where the case for change has been made', it adds, saying such support is 'crucial'.

King's Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: 'We think it is necessary to do because if you are not willing to go through that process and support plans of this kind, essentially you are colluding as politicians in the continuation of unsafe services.

'So politicians need to step up to the plate and be brave.'

However, not in all cases.

He added: 'There have been examples of consultations in the past which haven't been well founded. But where the evidence is clear, that's where Government and local politicians need to do their job.'

Mr Ham said he did not agree with STP proposals to slash hospital beds and said there was 'no prospect realistically' of cutting beds when this winter had shown all the beds were needed.

An NHS England spokesperson said the proposals put collaboration at the heart of the care system.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'These NHS plans – developed by local doctors, hospitals and councils working together with the communities they serve – will help patients get better care by delivering the NHS's five year forward view, transforming mental health provision, improving cancer care and delivering better access to GPs.'

Read the full report from The Kings Fund here


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