STP and ICS plans still being ‘refined’ as deadline pushed back

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  • Delay attributed to plans being “refined” and to pre-election purdah
  • Plans had been due for publication in November – schedule now unclear

Finalisation and publication of five-year system plans – setting out how each area will implement the NHS long-term plan – will be delayed by at least a month, officials have told HSJ.

NHS England and Improvement guidance issued in the summer said: “All systems will be expected to agree their plans by mid-November 2019 and publish them shortly thereafter.”

However, NHSE and I this week told HSJ that “work will continue into December” on the plans. They said this was firstly so they can “refine and strengthen” implementation plans, but also because of election publication restrictions.

The five-year plans were due to feed into a national LTP implementation document.

An NHSE/I spokesman said: “NHS teams have been doing extensive engagement with staff, patients and the public to develop their plans to improve services for local people and save more lives.

“Work will continue into December to refine and strengthen these implementation approaches. These will then inform the national implementation plan, that will need to be agreed in due course with the new government.” NHSE/I has given no new guidance on completion or publication dates.

There are varying views and some confusion among systems about whether current drafts of the plans can be published this month, as had been planned, now it is a pre-general election “purdah” period.

Some sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems have already published drafts.

One council leader involved in an ICS said it intended to discuss its plan at a health and well-being board meeting next month, ahead of the general election on 12 December.

An NHS leader drawing up a system plan said NHSE had not given “direct instruction not to publish” plans, but it was assumed they were not to release them if they had not already.

NHS Providers election guidance reminded NHS bodies that as STPs and ICSs have no legal standing in their own right, it is “the responsibility of each of the constituent partners jointly and severally” to decide what to publish.

While NHSE/I issued strict purdah rules to all NHS bodies last week, the Local Government Association told HSJ it was up to individual local councils to interpret its election guidance.

During 2016 – when systems were told to develop a first round of STPs – huge controversy developed about them being secret, and NHSE advising local areas against publication. There was also widespread criticism of the standard of some of the plans, and the requirement on them to make unrealistic plans to balance finances and meet targets.


By Sharon Brennan

Source NHS England and NHS Improvement; HSJ interviews

Source Date November 2019