The must read stories in health from Thursday

Full house

All 44 sustainability and transformation plans for England have now been published – nearly two months after each footprint was asked to submit its final proposals.

The final plan to be released was Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent’s, which said an A&E department will close on the patch, as will more than 100 community hospital beds. The solutions outlined in the STP will deliver £245m of savings.

HSJ has been keeping track of the publication pipeline on our map, and you can download every STP from it.

In his expert briefing, Dave West has analysed what we can learn from the plans, and what comes next for the STP programme.

He says: “This is in large part a case of having hit the target to publish, but missing the point. A stage managed publication process became necessary to try to draw out the venom of public suspicion: nobody thinks many of these documents are the finished article.

“They are better judged by what they don’t say than what they do: important long-standing issues going unmentioned; vital detail for delivery left absent; and a lack of agreed numbers to underpin contracts and financial balance in the next two years…

“[But] the longer STPs remain “works in progress”, the longer we’re without a model under which the NHS can balance its budget – and it is fast running out of road before the tightest years of funding famine, from 2018 to 2020.”

Good but not good enough

HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle reported today that local authorities will be able to raise the social care precept by 3 per cent in each of the next two years. According to Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, the rise could generate up to £208m in 2017-18 and £444m in 2018-2019.

On top of this, social care will receive £240m in funding that is being diverted from the new homes bonus scheme. Mr Javid said that alongside the increase in the precept, this will mean an additional £900m for adult social care.

The news of any more money for social care will surely be music to the NHS’s ears, but the NHS England chief executive made clear on Thursday that the precept increase will by no means be enough.

Addressing the issue of funding for social care at NHSE’s board meeting, Simon Stevens said it would need a “three part approach” – including “immediate financial support” and a debate on “profound changes” to the way social care is financed from 2020.

Despite welcoming the funding raised through increases in the precept, Mr Stevens was clear that it won’t “by any means close the [social care funding] gap”.

He cited estimates from the Local Government Association and others of a funding gap in social care of between £1.3bn to £1.9bn.

On a more optimistic note, Mr Stevens recognised that social care funding issues were “now being recognised” and “the country had move from denial to acknowledgement”.