The great and the good assembled at the King’s Fund in July to hear the choreography around STPs shift up another gear.
The event launched a new scoreboard for the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, the most advanced of which will soon transmogrify into ACSs, or Accountable Care Systems.
Announcing a £325 million pot for those STPs deemed “strongest,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, flanked by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and hand-picked NHS managers, attempted to calm fierce criticism over the impact of budget cuts on care.
STPs will now be judged against nine key criteria – hospital performance (emergency, elective and safety), patient-focused change (general practice, mental health and cancer), and transformation (prevention, leadership and finance).
Among the 15 STPs deemed “outstanding” by these yardsticks and sharing the cash are Dorset, where £100m has been awarded for the centralisation of emergency and planned care services.
Another big winner was West, North and East Cumbria, which will receive £105m for projects including a new cancer centre and works at West Cumberland Hospital.
However, such blue skies planning takes place alongside a continued real-world underfunding and staffing crisis that has seen night-time hospital A&E closures.
In elective care, rationing and rising waiting lists are piling on the pressure at local level, with worse to come.
An analysis of the Department of Health 2016-17 accounts by NHS Providers finances policy adviser Edward Cornick highlighted that in this supposed “year of plenty” in terms of five-year funding the Trust deficit was £791m, including one-off funding. “This means 2017-18 will be really tough,” warned Cornick.