The NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria is gearing up for a major public consultation about proposed changes to services across the region.
Papers presented to a committee of healthcare commissioners describe as “urgent” the need to ask residents for their opinion on the as-yet-unpublished plans.
And the scale of the challenge means a communications firm could be drafted in to ensure legal requirements about consulting the public are met.
“If we have to put our foot on the accelerator really quickly to bring existing work to consultation, we will have the ability to do that,” Gary Raphael Finance Director for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, told the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups.
The meeting also heard an indication of which parts of the patch could expect the most significant service change suggestions.
Mr Raphael told the committee that proposals for central Lancashire “will require [formal] consultation”, whereas that “may not necessarily be the case” for all plans in the other sub-regions – Fylde coast, Pennine Lancashire, West Lancashire and North Lancashire/South Cumbria.
Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria – an umbrella organisation comprising more than two dozen health and social care organisations in the area – has been conducting informal drop-in sessions for residents over the last 18 months.
The meeting was told that the NHS in the region intends to develop its own in-house resources for future consultations, but Mr Raphael added: “It’s possible by the time we have all the staff we need, [that] the consultations could have started.”
The process began almost two years ago when the region became one of 44 across England to produce a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). The document identified a combined projected funding gap of £572m in the health and social care budgets of the area by 2021.