Pimp your STP ride
Most areas of the country have already had a go at making a lifelike STP. Despite some initially encouraging signs of activity, most are in danger of disappearing into obscurity.
If you don’t take action now, your STP will suffer one of two fates. Either it will be crushed under the weight of committee minutes or it will be ignored to death by a fickle public glued to hourly updates on Brexit and the antics of President Trump.
Can you make it interesting? Probably not. Can you make it work? Of course not. But you can at least try to get your STP mentioned in the local papers or cited in a conference speech by Simon Stevens, either one of which is the next best thing to actual achievement.
Here are some tips on giving your STP an impression of substance and purpose.
You can’t go around calling yourself the Such and Such STP or, worse still, So and So Footprint. These are merely working titles. You need to embrace the power of branding. Your comms team should be able to come up with something original and catchy. Otherwise ten year old Department of Health policy documents are a valuable source of inspiration.
You can’t go wrong with some combination of Better, Together, Healthier, Living, Care, Wellbeing and Fabulous. Pick pretty much any two, find a child with an iPad to knock you up a logo and away you go.
Getting the governance right
You need a complicated diagram with arrows, something called a programme board and something quite large and colourful with the words “patient” and “co-design group”. Score bonus points for including “carers”. There should be a dotted line to Healthwatch. Don't worry too much about what any of these do. It's only a diagram.
Communications and engagement
Don’t try and do too much of this. STPs scored some quick wins by publishing their plans without talking to “stakeholders” first. It was a good move that cast STPs in the role of sinister plotting villains – always a winner for getting media coverage. That was your finest hour. Further attempts at engagement will inevitably expose just how dull your plans are, so they’re best avoided.
It’s very easy in these situations to overestimate your capacity for being understood. The following sentence – taken at random from a real STP document – is perfectly clear, right? “We are delivering local care by scaling up primary care into clusters and hub-based multispecialty community provider models.” Wrong. You have been specially trained to think it makes sense. No one else has a clue what you’re talking about.
Shooting yourself in the footprint
The main reason to avoid communication is that you’re on a hiding to nothing. People don’t want to hear about your radical plans to shake up the local health service because they like it as it is – or as it was before you started messing around with it.
You could always follow the line taken by an STP leader who thought he was being reassuring when he said of local transformation plans: “You probably won’t notice any difference.”
You don’t have to be John Humphrys to imagine the fun you could have with a follow-up question.
Fashion editor: Julian Patterson