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NHS England ‘will not sign off local plans unless they support GPs’

Exclusive NHS England will not be signing off on the secret ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ unless they are supportive of GPs, it has told Pulse.

NHS England said that commissioners in each area were given allowed to decide themselves how they would engage with the workforce in their area, following Pulse revealing that LMC leaders were being excluded from regional planning processes that have been ongoing for months.

However, it also said it expects ‘robust engagement’ from commissioners, including with frontline GPs, while emphasising that the plans will have to support general practice.

Today, Pulse revealed that LMC leader were being ‘excluded’ from consultations on the STP plans, which are in the process of being approved by NHS England. 

The lack of transparency comes despite the brief from NHS bosses setting out that these STPs have to detail plans for the ‘sustainability and quality’ of general practice, including ‘workforce and workload issues’.

Following this, an NHS England spokesperson told Pulse that commissioners had to be ‘explicit’ about how GPs would be ‘supported’, and the plans from April’s General Practice Forward View put into action.

The spokesperson said: ‘While each STP footprint has rightly determined its own locally appropriate approaches to governance and workforce engagement, the national bodies expect robust engagement with local people and organisations throughout the development of the plans, including with front line GPs.

‘The national bodies will consider the breadth and depth of engagement when reviewing the plans, and no STP will be agreed in the Autumn unless it explicitly demonstrates how local GPs will be supported, and how the GP Forward View will be implemented in their area.

NHS England also highlighted that it would be working with the RCGP’s STP ‘ambassadors’, of which the college has appointed 29 across England.

The spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the introduction of the RCGP’s regional ambassadors, who will undoubtedly play an important role in supporting local engagement.’

NHS England last month unveiled how it would distribute a £16m support fund, unveiled in the GP Forward View, aimed at helping struggling GP practices.

Meanwhile, Pulse found that in several regions LMCs had been largely out of the loop for the first six months of the process to outline how the NHS Five Year Forward View is to be implemented in their area.

This includes plans on how to move to new models of general practice and ensuring sustainability of the GP workforce.

What are STPs?

At the end of last year, NHS England tasked regional teams, CCGs, trusts and local authorities with forming regional footprints, and then write plans for how the NHS Five Year Forward View would be delivered within them.

By January, 44 footprints were formed, and by 30 June each had submitted its first draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to NHS England.

As previously reported by Pulse, each plan has to adress ‘sustainability and quality’ of general practice, including both ’workforce and workload issues’.

At the time, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ’This guidance sets out the next steps to make the vision set out in the Five Year Forward View a reality.

‘A new approach to how local NHS leaders plan to meet health needs across whole areas will sit alongside the new Sustainability and Transformation Fund established as part of our £560bn funding plan for the NHS.’