Tracking the development of sustainability and transformation plans in England

Based on a series of interviews with senior NHS and local government leaders which took place throughout 2016, this project looked at how STPs have been developed in four parts of the country.

Why we did this project

NHS planning guidance published in December 2015 asked NHS organisations and local authorities to work together to make a joint plan for their local health and care services – a ‘sustainability and transformation plan’ (STP). After agreeing the right geographical area (‘footprint’) for their STP, leaders were asked to develop five-year plans covering all areas of NHS-commissioned care in their area. A total of 44 areas were identified as the footprints on which the STPs were to be based. Plans were submitted by 21 October 2016.

STPs are important because they signal the clear intent of national NHS bodies to encourage collaboration between local organisations to meet the financial and service pressures they collectively face. The purpose of our research was to understand how STPs were being developed and what lessons can be learnt for local areas and national policy-makers.

What we did

Our research tracked the process of developing STPs in four parts of the country. The research was qualitative, involving a series of interviews with the senior leaders in each of those areas.

We were interested in understanding factors such as:

  • how the work to develop STPs was led, managed and governed
  • the extent of collaboration in developing STPs and the involvement of different partners in doing this
  • the challenges experienced throughout the process
  • how the work was managed alongside existing priorities.

Our research focused primarily on how STPs were being developed – in other words, the process of developing them – rather than on the detail and content of the plans themselves.

Our findings

Our findings are available in the publication, Sustainability and transformation plans in the NHS: How are they being developed in practice?