Are you ready for STPs?

For most of us, the question is probably not "are you ready" for STPs but, "what on earth are" STPs?

STPs - Sustainability Transformation Plans - are the latest big idea to hit the NHS and local authority social care and, like most big ideas, they're not that easy to get your head around.

The reason for this is simple. Health and social care managers are great at "the big picture"; a picture which usually involves making services work harder/better for "real people" and "putting patients at the heart of care".

Of course we'd all like this so we say "Yes!" to STPs, quickly followed by: "So what does that actually mean in practice?"

And it is this last question that stumps even the best prepared health manager. I know because I used to be one.

The health and care landscape is not what many people believe it is. The NHS is not "one big family" any longer and it hasn't been this way for many years. Health services are now provided by a vast array of both large and small private entities - many of which are social enterprises* - that complement the NHS trusts that are still afloat.

* A quick word on social enterprises: over the past several years, nurses and doctors and other health and care professionals have been quietly leaving the NHS and setting up their own small practices delivering highly specialised services in their own small niche. These companies are usually social enterprises and exist to benefit their local community as well as provide a living for the company owner and their employees. They are often doing a great job of it too.

So in my view it's this array of service providers that hold the key to making STPs become reality.

Because they are specialised, agile and highly attuned to the needs of their patients, they are more likely to be able to provide the patient- and community-centred care that STPs up and down the country are calling for.

But I feel I cannot leave this article until I answer the question: "What does that mean in practice?"

It is (sorry to break it to you like this) all about the money. Health and social care are broke and STPs are wrapping paper for cuts on a huge scale.

However, it's not all bad. If those local social enterprises set up and run by local doctors, nurses and others get themselves geared up to respond to STPs there's a chance that patients will ultimately benefit.

If you run a social enterprise like this, we've got something that might interest you. We're offering a free 'readiness audit' to test how ready your company is to respond to STPs and what actions you can take to be ready for opportunities in your area.

Find out more.