Local authorities have been variously engaged with STPs. Manchester’s John Rouse, previously Croydon Council CE and more recently Director General in the Department of Health is just one example, others are chaired by Council CEs. Sustainability Transformation Plans (STPs) have now been given the responsibility for delivering the final three stages of the Five Year Forward View. They are here to stay and they are likely to become increasingly powerful for two reasons. Firstly they strongly reflect the place based plans being promoted by and for local authorities. Secondly, Simon Steven’s messages include the most recent two announcements that STPs must produce two year plans, they are effectively also becoming the joint vehicle for health and social care integration. The two year plans for most of the 44 STPs across the country are expected to be in by the end of  2016. We are well into Autumn, not long to go.

Just like STPs, place based plans are about the whole picture in one geographical area and that must mean big data. Why? Because it is only possible to plan for sustainable transformation by seeing the whole picture and this means large scale and complex intelligence and information. Those areas that started with the principle of “small is beautiful” and with the laudable principle of building new care models from the bottom up may have to think again. Or if not again, certainly align their local care models with the bigger picture. Services can be planned on local area populations of 30-40,000 people, as in Birmingham, but these local areas need to be capable of being joined up into one sustainable transformative plan for the whole area. The STPs that are making the most progress are those that are using data to their advantage.

Big data means lots of different things to different people. Many say they don’t like the term but worldwide it  means the potential to enhance productivity and create significant value for the world and local economy. The key issue, as with all data, is knowing the right question to ask and resist the temptation to go on a shopping trip without a list. Dynamic dashboards which include whole population data, education, police, fire services, transport, the environment and even the weather are the progressive tools we need. It’s essentially about data in the Cloud instead of data in lots of segregated stores. In many areas Public Health and BI units have now put all the individual information stores into one big data warehouse which is laudable but breaking down the silos is proving problematic. Using the Cloud does away with this problem instantly. It also offers the potential for rapid daily, even hourly data analysis. This is the sort of demand and supply, cost and activity data most large scale retail bodies rely upon for predicting changes in supply and demand. There’s a lot of catching up to do but it’s clear that STPs are the vehicle for making these large and small scale changes.

Julia Ross was the first joint Director of Social Services and PCT CE in Barking and Dagenham. She is now MD of Care and Health in Pi and a member of the TechUK National Health and Social Care Council