NHS England is planning to establish a new “national network” of sustainability and transformation partnership clinical leaders to address a lack of clinician engagement in the programme to date.
It has told each STP to nominate clinical representatives to attend a conference later this month – along with system and executive leads – to further develop a clinical engagement programme.
“We want to support the efforts of STPs in putting clinical leadership at the forefront of their plans”
The national commissioning organisation said it was inviting two clinical representatives from each STP to attend the event in later September.
It said it wanted to secure representation from as broad a range of clinicians as possible, including consultants, nurses and allied health professionals.
In January 2016, NHS England gathered together local health and social care organisations into 44 STP groups 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.
All 44 STP plans have now been published in draft form, but some have drawn criticism for setting out ambitions to cut nurse staffing levels, while others have been accompanied by negative media coverage and public opposition at shutting or downgrading hospitals.
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In March, the chief nursing officer for England Professor Jane Cummings urged nurses to get involved more in redesigning local and regional services.
She said she had noted concerns that had been raised in some parts of the country about a lack of engagement from nurses in the development of STP plans.
Meanwhile, NHS England told Health Service Journal that there would be no formal job description for the new STP clinical leads and that partnerships would be told to develop the role locally.
A senior source said system leaders deemed a formal role inappropriate, because there was no “one size fits all” model to address the “variable” levels of clinical engagement across the STPs.
System leaders wanted a “bottom up” approach, the source told Health Service Journal.
But that lack of formality, and the apparent lack of consultation with some medical bodies to date, have prompted concerns from the Royal College of Physicians.
RCP president Jane Dacre said: “A framework outlining the scope, the time needed for the role, and how the advice and work of clinicians can be of benefit locally, would be a useful start.”
She said it was “disappointing” that the college had not been “involved right at the beginning”. But Professor Dacre welcomed efforts “to encourage as much clinical input as possible”.
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“It is clear more work needs to be done to enable clinicians to be able to input effectively,” she told Health Service Journal.
“The RCP believes STPs should be planned, implemented and delivered with clinical input at their core and we welcome that such input has been included,” she added.
A final date for the September meeting is still being decided on, said NHS England. The event is intended to allow clinicians to share experiences, discuss the priorities and role of the national network, how to spread best practice, and how system leaders can best support the model.
An NHS England spokesman said: “This country badly needs more joined up care systems and we want to support the efforts of STPs in putting clinical leadership at the forefront of their plans, which is why we are creating a national network to enable them to share best practice.”