If you’re not sure what an STP is you can go to our webpages for more information, but in short the aim is for providers and commissioners of health and social care to agree transformation of services to both improve care pathways and save money.
However, many months into these programmes and progression is variable with some STPs further into planning than others. As an organisation the RCN is concerned about workforce issues and quality of care; to this end in the South West region RCN staff and representatives have engaged wherever possible to influence change and decision making processes. Our overarching position is that change for patient benefit should be embraced, but there is a degree of concern that some change is simply about saving money and this cannot be acceptable if there is any risk to patient safety. Some STPs in the region are required to produce Capital Expenditure Plans because they have significant financial deficits. The RCN understands that STP leads are struggling to meet the cuts demanded by the Department of Health without affecting services significantly. Furthermore we are very worried about the decisions which continue to be taken outside of the agreed partnership arrangements and without meaningful public consultation.
Evidence is very clear that the availability of appropriate numbers of registered nurses has a direct and positive impact on outcomes for patients and we will resist moves to water down the profession to cut costs. Equally, we have concerns about our assistant practitioner, health care assistant and nurse associate members being expected to fill skills gaps without the appropriate training support and financial reward for additional responsibilities. There must be a joined up and properly considered approach to the development of both the registered and unregistered nursing workforce across the region and UK as a whole.
STPs have the potential to change the health landscape, and with appropriate funding this could mean health and social care systems are revolutionised and become future-proofed and fit for purpose. But, if the changes remain financially driven we will instead see the closure of vital services to fit a predetermined financial envelope putting the most vulnerable people in our society at serious risk. We will see nurses working in the surviving services being put under more pressure, doing more for even less and this will only serve to make worse an already challenging recruitment crisis.
More than ever we need RCN representatives to help us to support members experiencing change in their place of work.
Would you be interested in this role? Please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 for more information or explore our 'Become an RCN rep' webpages.