Research shared exclusively with HSJ has found very low awareness of sustainability and transformation plans among the general public.

An Ipsos Mori poll found only one in seven people surveyed in December were aware of their local STP.

This contrasted with 74 per cent who were “worried” or “very worried” about the future of the NHS. The survey involved 943 people in England.

Despite STPs being described as “secret cuts plans” by some campaign groups, the survey results seemed to indicate a large degree of public apathy towards participating in the design of services.

While 44 per cent of respondents said they would like a say in the plans, 17 per cent did not think public involvement was necessary. The remaining 39 per cent thought the public should have a say but they were not interested in being involved.

Head of health research at Ipsos Mori Kate Duxbury said: “With early indications suggesting that some STPs will involve significant reconfigurations, lessons from the past clearly demonstrate that this limited patient and public engagement needs rectifying, and quickly.

“Regardless of the debated potential economic and clinical benefits that may result from STPs, the prospect of changing local hospital services is one that has the power to get the public marching in the streets. Hospitals are the clearest symbols of the NHS: they are solid and tangible, it’s where you go if you really need the NHS.

“Public anger around changes to these services can be substantial and leaders of previous reconfiguration attempts will doubtless remember the hostile, and sometimes abusive, public consultation meetings they have had to endure.”