Draft Sustainability and Transformation Plans are proposing cuts to NHS services, including the closure of acute hospitals and greater reliance of telehealth in parts of London, it has been reported.
Several news outlets, including the BBC and the Guardian, have reported this morning that the 44 draft STPs lay out the ground work for radical changes in the financially stretched NHS.
Most of the plans have yet to be made public but are central to NHS England’s plan to close the £22 billion funding gap forecasted for the NHS by 2020-21.
STPs, along with Local Digital Roadmaps, are also key for trusts seeking to gain access to the £1.8 billion “sustainability and transformation fund”, which theoretically will include extra money for IT Infrastructure.
There have been reports that these plans include reductions in bed numbers, and closure of some acute services entirely.
Digital Health News has also seen documents that suggest technology will be increasingly relied upon to cut face-to-face consultation.
The draft of the North West London STP, seen by Digital Health News, shows that “footprint” plans to reduce face-to-face outpatient consultations by 40% by “using technology”.
This could include enabling citizens to use videoconferencing and telehealth, the draft plan says. In a blog post earlier this month, Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said the STP process could mean some huge shifts in how care is delivered but had “not been very visible”.
He also was concerned that, despite some radical steps, many of the STPs did not meet NHS England’s financial targets. “There are a lot of unanswered questions about the underpinning assumptions about the source and timing of savings.”
Responding to the reports, The King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said there was a clear need to change how care was delivered, and the STPs were part of positive shift away from competition towards more collaboration among NHS organisations.
However, reports of a reduction in beds and hospital closures were concerning, he said. “It would be a huge shame if a vital opportunity to improve services for patients is derailed by bruising rows about ill-conceived hospital closures."
Final STPs are expected to be signed-off by NHS England from October.