A BMA survey of 310 doctors in England found that 64% had not been consulted over the wide-ranging NHS Sustainability and Transformation plans (STPs).
The plans, drawn up by CCGs, hospital trusts and local authorities, are intended to map out the future health strategy of 44 regions across England but the process has come under fire for lack of transparency and secrecy.
A third of doctors told the BMA that they had never heard of STPs before the survey, while 13% did not support their introduction and 9% ‘strongly’ did not support the initiative, the survey found.
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said that it was ‘extremely concerning’ that most doctors have not been asked about their STPs, particularly because many plans required ‘significant changes to services to balance their books’.
‘The STP planning process has turned into a mess,’ said Dr Porter. ‘It is crucial that any plans about the future of the NHS must be drawn up in an open and transparent way and have the support and involvement of clinicians and the public from the outset.’
Dr Porter added: ‘Improving patient care must be the number-one priority of these plans. There is a real risk that these transformation plans will be used as a cover for delivering cuts, starving services of resources and patients of vital care.’
The BMA is calling on ministers to meet five key demands:
- Plans must be made public as soon as possible
- Proposals in STPs should be realistic and evidence-based
- A commitment to full consultation with clinicians, patients and the public on any proposed changes as soon as possible
- Plans must be properly funded
- Patient care – not savings – must be priority of each and every plan.
The BMA’s warnings about STPs follow a report from the King’s Fund which suggested that GPs were the ‘least involved in the process’.
In August Pulse also revealed GP leaders’ warnings about being ‘excluded’ from discussions about the new plans.