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NUS calls on students to challenge local health plans

Wednesday 03-05-2017 - 13:46

'Sustainability and Transformation Plans' have been published for consultation that will guide health and care services commissioned over the next five years.

You don’t have to look far to see that our health and social care system is at breaking point. The closure of A&Es and elderly patients unable to leave hospital are the stories that most frequently reach the headlines, but we must remember this crisis doesn’t just start and end with hospitals. A properly funded health and social care system gives us all the chance, regardless of means, to lead a life well lived.

Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) Footprints were established in December 2015 as new regional bodies with the power to decide how NHS funding for ‘sustainability and transformation’ is spent locally. The plans are supposed to encourage collaboration across and beyond the NHS, with a particular focus on prevention and primary care.

These plans have been published for public consultation, due to be implemented this autumn, but there is widespread concern across councils, communities and sector bodies that these plans are not fit for purpose. While the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed an extra £10 billion is going into the Health Service, Simon Stevens of NHS England and the Health Select Committee have revealed that the true figure is around a third of this. It is no wonder that communities worry these new plans are a front for further disinvestment in their NHS.

NUS is deeply concerned that these plans do not take into account the needs of students across higher and further education, particularly with regards to mental health. Our 2015 survey found eight out of 10 students had experienced mental health issues in the previous year, and a 2013 survey found that 10 per cent of students reported a diagnosed mental illness. In a 2015 survey the Association of Colleges found that 66 per cent of respondents said that the number of students with mental health difficulties had ‘significantly increased’ in the past three years and 75 per cent felt that their college had ‘significant numbers’ of students who had undisclosed mental health difficulties. Data from the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales show that in 2007 there were 75 suicides of full-time students aged over 18; in 2012 there were 112 and in 2014 there were 130.

The lack of collaboration and engagement with local communities and practitioners is also alarming. Currently STP footprints are making decisions with no legal identity, very little transparency and no clearly articulated lines of accountability.

So what can you do?

We have produced a briefing to sit alongside this article, providing more detail on what to ask your STP lead and what we want them to include in their plans. 

Step 1: Read your local STP. You can find yours here. Are there any gaps? Do they mention students? Talk to your institution and neighbouring FE and HE unions to see if they will support you.

Step 2: Use and adapt the template letter to lobby your STP leads (listed here) for the changes you want to see in the plan. We have included a list of key asks in the briefing.

Step 3: You could lobby your local council to reject their STP plans. We have drafted a second template letter for you to adapt for this purpose.

Alternatively or in addition to the above you can support a number of national campaigns against cuts to health and social care (which may have local groups), including the following:

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