Weekly updates and essential insight into the NHS in the South West, by Will Hazell

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Welcome to Deep South

This is the third edition of HSJ’s new email briefing on the NHS in the South West of England.

Deep South will take an in-depth weekly look at a region which is one of the NHS’s most innovative, but also one of its most turbulent. My patch will include the cities of Bristol and Bath, through Wessex and Dorset, and all the way down the peninsular to Lizard Point.

Please get in touch with any suggestions about what you’d like to see covered and any story tips: will.hazell@emap.com

The STP and success regime in Devon

Last week Deep South reported on Cornwall’s difficulties finding a leader for its sustainability and transformation plan “footprint”.

Suitable candidates are thin on the ground in the county, so they’ve had to advertise for an external chair.

Their neighbours in Devon have had a bit more luck. It was announced earlier this month that Angela Pedder, chief executive of Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, would be STP chair.

Devon is an interesting case. The STP footprint has been established across the whole of the county – including Torbay, which has in recent years ploughed its own furrow, in relative separation from the troubled Northern, Eastern and Western Devon patch.

I understand that some in Torbay were worried that inclusion in the Devon STP could destabilise their well developed integrated care organisation arrangements. However, it was concluded the area could benefit from greater links to the rest of the county, particularly in relation to specialist acute work.

Of course, in Devon the STP is not the first attempt to get local organisations talking to one another and working collectively to address common challenges. NEW Devon, with its longstanding financial and clinical sustainability problems, is one of three regions in the national “success regime”.

Local leaders are keen to ensure the two programmes work in tandem. Deep South is told that “70-80 per cent” of the work being done as part of the success regime will populate the STP (notwithstanding the complication that Torbay is not included in the former).

The NEW Devon success regime published findings from a “diagnostic” phase earlier this year. It identified a £442 funding gap by 2020-21 unless radical action is taken, including the centralisation of some specialist and acute services.

A paper is due later this month setting out options for change. That’s when the regime and the STP will truly be tested. Will local leaders be able to hang together as hard decisions are made about services, and will they be able to take the community with them?

Somerset vanguard FT to take over GP practices

Last week my colleague David Williams reported that three GP practices are to be taken over by a company wholly owned by the local hospital foundation trust as part of South Somerset’s Symphony vanguard programme.

The practices will be the first to become part of Symphony Healthcare Services – a new subsidiary company of Yeovil District Hospital.

South Somerset is a primary and acute care systems vanguard, aimed at integrating GP and hospital services.

Up to nine practices could eventually be absorbed into the company, but it’s not the only route for general practice to engage with the vanguard.

GPs who wish to be involved while remaining independent will be able to become co-owners of another entity, South Somerset Primary Healthcare. This will partner with Symphony Healthcare Services to set up a third new body (still with me?), which will become the local accountable care organisation, given a single outcomes based budget to provide care for the local population.

Like other vanguards, Symphony will be under pressure in the coming year to show that all this organisational effort is yielding meaningful benefits.

You can read David’s dissection of the vanguard – and some of the challenges it faces – here.