CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Nursing Times
The government has announced which sustainability and transformation plans will receive a share of the £325m of extra capital funding that was pledged to the NHS in the spring budget, The Nursing Times reports.
The money will be paid to the 15 “strongest” STPs over the next three years – the controversial regional plans drawn up to restructure healthcare services into a more integrated model.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced July 19 which local projects will receive a tranche of the funding.
Schemes in 15 areas of the country have been given the go ahead, with the largest sums being used for urgent care in Dorset, surgery in Greater Manchester and cancer care in Cumbria.
For example, money will go towards plans to concentrate urgent and emergency care in four hub sites across Greater Manchester, expected to save around 300 lives each year in general surgery.
Meanwhile, in Bedfordshire doctors and nurses are developing a primary care hub on the site of Bedford Hospital, which is expected to improve access to same-day appointments for around 50,000 patients and reduce the number of unnecessarily accident and emergency attendances.
In Derbyshire an “urgent care village’ will be created at the Royal Derby with GP services, a frailty clinic and mental health services, to ensure patients receive the right care in the right place, first time, and avoid going to A&E unnecessarily.
Since their inception, the 44 STPs in England have attracted controversy, despite most analysts agreeing that the overarching aim behind them was worthy.
In January last year, NHS England gathered together local health and social care organisations into 44 partnerships to cover geographical population “footprints” around England.
They were told to look at how they could make services more efficient and also move away from acute models in favour of more community provision.
However, some of the 44 plans drew criticism for setting out ambitions to cut nurse staffing levels, while others have been accompanied by public opposition at shutting or downgrading hospitals.
Earlier this year, union leaders warned that a lack of funding for STPs could ultimately prove to be their downfall.
The latest funding was originally announced in the budget in March, when the government also committed to make further capital investment available in its forthcoming autumn statement.
The 15 STPs judged to be the strongest had performed well across indicators in three broad areas – hospital performance, patient-focused change, and transformation – said NHS leaders.
Speaking today, Mr Hunt said: “This funding will support strong local plans to help the NHS modernise and transform care for patients.”
Meanwhile, Mr Stevens said: “We’re firing the starting gun on the first wave of major service upgrades and care redesign.
This is the first down payment of much needed investment in modern equipment and NHS facilities, with more promised in the autumn and beyond,” said Mr Stevens.
“For patients, it’ll mean easier GP appointments, modern A&Es, and better cancer and mental health care,” he said. “For staff, we’re putting our money where our mouth is in backing these practical plans developed by doctors, nurses and local NHS leaders.”
Commenting on the investment, Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Any investment in the NHS is welcome as spending on facilities and services is urgently needed.
“But ministers must accept that change is not possible without the staff to provide these services,” she said.
“It’s now time for the Treasury to pay up and invest in a proper pay rise for staff that recognises the commitment and expertise of all NHS employees,” she added.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents trusts, described the £325m investment as “a small step in the right direction”.
“Given that the Conservatives have promised £10bn of extra capital for the NHS in England, we should expect a much more serious capital injection in the budget statement later this year,” he said.
“We also welcome this endorsement of the STPs – they will be critical in changing the way care is delivered all over England,” he added. “It is in everyone’s interest that every STP succeeds.”
Chris Ham, chief Executive of the King’s Fund think-tank, said: “For STPs to be successful, capital funding is needed to support the transformation of health and care services.
“Today’s announcement is very welcome, and should be seen as a first instalment of the much larger capital investment promised in the budget and by the prime minister in the election campaign,” he said.