Clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts were working together on the plans with very little or no involvement of those who directly deliver patient care, let alone patients or local communities.
There was more of a mixed picture in the Northern region however. In Cumbria, the ‘Success Regime’ which brought together NHS organisations in West, North and East Cumbria – and went onto become the STP for the footprint – did engage with trade unions after some determined lobbying. However, the picture elsewhere in the region remains a very real worry. Not least because the level of detail required to make the plans work can only be developed with proper involvement of local communities and staff groups – those who will be responsible for delivering frontline patient care.
Since last year, each STP in the region has set up a Local Workforce Action Board (LWAB). These are some of the main forums for developing and scrutinising future plans. Opportunities to get involved remain patchy across the country and despite repeated requests for involvement in LWABs in Cumbria and the North East, the RCN and the other health unions continue to be excluded.
However, we have won an important concession. Each STP in the region - Durham, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham; and West, North and East Cumbria - has established an individual Social Partnership Forum (SPF). This is where the employers and trade unions will meet to talk and examine workforce issues. Jointly working with the joint trade unions, we developed a memorandum of understanding for the SPFs, which sets out how we engage with the employers.
Despite this success, we’re still lobbying hard to get involved in LWABs. We’re also using our important relationships within the NHS at all levels. From clinical commissioning groups, primary and community care to acute trusts, we’re exploring all possible opportunities for engaging with STPs in the region. Being able to engage is crucial and will enable us and the other health trade unions to hold the NHS to account and safeguard the important patient services it provides.