Getting to grips with NHS changes

Physiotherapy features throughout the NHS Long Term Plan, published by NHS England in January. The plan sets out ambitions for the NHS over the next 10 years. Stuart Palma and Naomi McVey on how to get involved 

Stuart Palma/Noami McVey/getting to grips with NHS Changes

One of the most significant changes for members working in England is the transition of sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) to integrated care systems (ICS) by 2021. As local plans progress, it’s important that physiotherapists understand their local STP or ICS so they can support and influence local changes. The terminology and abbreviations may be new, but the principles of effective involvement and influencing remain the same. 

There are five areas to think about as these new structures take shape:

1. Be informed

The best way to influence local plans is to stay up to date:

  • take a look at the STP pages and plans on the NHS England website,
  • find your local STP/ICS website,
  • sign up to bulletins and newsletters,
  • follow them on Twitter,
  • and go to public meetings.

Most STPs or ICSs actively seek local engagement, so making sure you are connected means you’ll be aware of these opportunities. 

2. Be politically savvy 

Understand how things work locally. For STPs and ICSs, this means knowing what they are planning, how they work and who leads them. STPs include NHS providers, commissioners and local councils with shared proposals to improve the health and care of their local populations.

Governance arrangements are fairly standardised, with a leadership board and local workforce action board. Leadership teams include a chief officer, medical director and in some areas an AHP lead. However, supporting governance subgroups, advisory forums and pathway leads do vary locally.  

3. Think ‘system’

It’s important to understand the needs and priorities across the whole of your local area and its health and care ‘system’, as well as how your services fit with these. Think about your local population’s needs, as well as local service priorities and pressures, and where physiotherapy can offer solutions. 

4. Work in partnership

Some areas have established strategic AHP forums to support partnership working, workforce planning and system transformation. These are responsive to local networks and structures, and include AHP cabinets, councils and forums. Membership includes chief AHPs, professional leads and patients. These are an important space for AHP leaders to come together to collaborate and support wider system plans.   

5. Be prepared

Once you’re informed and engaged, opportunities to shape and influence STP and ICS plans may come when you least expect them. Be prepared by understanding relevant priorities in the plan and how your service can support these – with some good data and patient stories to hand.  

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