NHS terrorism response was better because of STPs, says Hunt

The NHS response to the Manchester terrorist attack last month was more effective because of reforms led by the sustainability and transformation plan (STP) process, Jeremy Hunt has claimed.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Pete Hill)

Speaking to health leaders at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool, the health secretary said the work done through the sustainability and transformation partnership in the city meant the NHS response to the Manchester Arena bomb attack was was more more streamlined and effective.

Twenty-two people were killed and 119 injured when Salman Ramadan Abedi exploded a home-made bomb at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May.

Mr Hunt paid tribute to NHS staff who responded to the attack, as well as attacks at London Bridge and Westminster in London and the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower this week. He thanked two groups of NHS staff who he said were often not mentioned enough - bereavement nurses and pathologists.

NHS staff

The health secretary said the government could look at covering any specific extra costs incurred by local NHS organisations responding to the terror attacks.

But, he added, the 'interesting lesson' from the NHS response to the Manchester bombing was 'how joined up it was as a result of the terrific progress ... that Manchester trusts have made in coming together as part of their STP'.

Control over health and care services in Greater Manchester are devolved to a joint local authority-NHS commissioner. 'I think they have probably gone further and faster than anywhere else in the country,' said Mr Hunt.

'I know it's not been easy to do that, but it was extremely streamlined and effective and I think that is a very good reason for exactly what we are trying to achieve with the STP process. And I'm absolutely certain that we were able to give a better, more effective response as a result of that.'

Clinical engagement

The STP process, the mechanism for implementing the NHS in England's Five Year Forward View, has been criticised by doctors leaders and health campaigners as unworkable, lacking clinical and public engagement and for hiding service and funding cuts.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his fourth reappointment as health secretary, Mr Hunt said capital funding to support the Five Year Year Forward View was 'very much on my mind and the chancellor's mind at the moment'. 

The Conservatives promised in their election manifesto to provide the capital funding for the 'most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology the NHS has ever seen' including for new primary care facilities. Mr Hunt said that was now the government's 'number one priority when it comes to capital funding'.

'Putting more money into the NHS is one of the highest priorities for this government,' he added.

The health secretary also warned that a promise to consult on possible legislative changes to help implementation of the Forward View, possibly including changes to the internal market, may now only be possible with cross-party support because of the election result.

'We are expecting to be in power until 2022' Mr Hunt said, 'and expecting to deliver a stable government to make that possible. But obviously the legislative landscape has changed and that means that legislation of this nature is only  going to be possible if there is a consensus across all political parties.'

He added: 'I don't think that is in any way impossible. I think that it is realistically not something we would do while the Brexit process is carrying on.'

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