In January 2019, the NHS Long Term Planset out key national ambitions for the next ten years of the NHS in England that make mental health a key priority. The accompanying ‘Mental Health Implementation Plan’ includes promising initiatives to improve support and treatment for people with eating disorders, and NHS England’s recently published commissioning guidance outlines what patients and carers should be able to expect from adult eating disorder services.
These are all big steps in the right direction, and five-year plans are now being created across regions in England to achieve the vision of the NHS Long Term Plan locally. We have a great opportunity to make sure eating disorders get the focus they deserve in your area.
The planning in your area will be done by a Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) or Integrated Care System (ICS). They are groups made up of local organisations and the NHS, who are seeking the views of those in their communities to help them decide what to include in their plans and how best to use their resources over the coming years.
This is your chance to have your say and encourage local NHS leaders to prioritise eating disorders by sharing what you have learnt from your experiences and letting them know what you think can be improved locally. This can also be a chance to let them know about anything that worked well, so that they can keep doing this. Contacting your local leaders won’t take long, but the impact could be long lasting for those in your area who need help in the future.
Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STP) and Integrated Care Systems (ICS) are partnerships between NHS commissioners, NHS Trusts, Local Authorities and the voluntary and community sector, designed to break down barriers between the organisations that pay for services and those that provide them, between primary and secondary care, between physical and mental health, and between health and social care.
They are designed to bring all these organisations and sectors together to share responsibility and leadership, with the aim of improving care for patients while also achieving financial sustainability.
You can find a list of STPs and ICSs on the NHS England website. You might not be covered by the STP/ICS you’d expect – for example, part of Nottinghamshire is covered by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw STP, rather than Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICS.
STPs bring together local NHS organisations (including CCGs and NHS Trusts), local councils, voluntary sector organisations and others to plan how to improve the health and social care of residents in their area. By engaging with this group, you can help to influence all aspects of eating disorder care in your area.
In some areas, STPs have already evolved to become integrated care systems (ICSs), a new form of closer collaboration where NHS organisations and local councils aim to reach all key decisions by consensus.
There is no exact description of how an STP/ICS should operate and there is not yet a legal framework for STP/ICS in place, but it’s clear that the focus of healthcare in England is shifting away from CCGs to STPs and now ICSs.
Check the STP/ICS website for any current opportunities to share your views and experiences. Some may provide links to surveys or information about upcoming public meetings. Most websites will have a ‘Get Involved’ section that will include such information.
Your local STP/ICS should have contact details on their website, either for them or for someone at a local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) who is coordinating public engagement on behalf of the STP/ICS.
You could also get in touch with your local Healthwatch. Healthwatch is an independent champion for people who use health and social care services and there is a local branch in each area. Healthwatch has received funding to help members of the public share their views and experiences with their local STP/ICS.
You don’t need to be an expert in health policy but if you have the time to do some research it may help you plan what to write or say at a meeting. Here are some useful references:
The STP/ICS website may provide information on their current priorities and work done to date. It could also help to research what the setup is in your area and who the key players are within your STP/ICS.
Three key areas for eating disorders from the NHS Long Term Plan
Key expectations from the NHS England commissioning guidance for adult eating disorder services
Eating disorder services will:
The NHS does not publish much data on eating disorder treatment, but you may find the following sources useful:
Most people writing five-year plans will care about what you are saying and want to make a difference. Remember the time, money, and political pressure on them, so make it as easy as possible for them to work with you.
It’s our job to provide you with information and support to help you feel confident to share your views and experiences with decision makers. The team are always happy to read over anything you plan to send and offer feedback and advice.