The NHS and local government should ‘ignore’ and ‘aggressively challenge’ unhelpful diktats from central government that are driving a wedge between local relationships, an influential health sector figure has urged.
Speaking at The MJ’s Future Forum North conference today, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson also said the NHS and local government were ‘failing’ to integrate at the required pace and called for a ‘future reset’ of the sustainability and transformation partnerships (STP) process.
Mr Hopson said: ‘In places where it is working, it is despite, not because, of what is coming down from above.
‘We need more and more from local systems to wrest control of our own destinies and, dare I say it, ignore all the stuff that’s coming down from above.
‘We need to start more aggressively challenging what’s coming down from above where it does not suit and where it is pulling us in different directions.’
Addressing a room full of local government chief executives and senior managers, Mr Hopson admitted the NHS should accept the bulk of the blame for failing to include local government in STPs.
He said the sectors were aligned in their vision, which has been set out in ‘so many reports over so many years’, but said: ‘we are failing to deliver at pace that vision we all share.’
Mr Hopson continued: ‘The STP process turned into an NHS-led affair and it has not had local authorities fully integrated.
‘The time has now come to address the fact that that has not happened and it’s pretty clear a number of STPs are really struggling.
‘We in the NHS need to take our fair share of the blame, and I would perhaps admit it is the bigger share.
‘I don’t think this is working in the way we need it to at the pace we need it to.’
He said the gap between struggling STP areas and the few more successful places was ‘growing by the day’, adding: ‘If there is a reset of STPs we need to make sure we use that opportunity to ensure the process turns into true collaboration and partnership.
‘There is an opportunity to address the fact we have not got the relationships right’, Mr Hopson said, pointing to the ‘bizarre’ focus on delayed transfers of care over the past year.
He added that the tussle over resources ‘did not feel conducive to an effective partnership’.
Mr Hopson also declared the ‘zigzag approach’ to funding the two sectors was ‘unsustainable’ and ‘piecemeal’.
‘It is becoming increasingly impossible to provide the services we know we need to provide’, he added.