The head of a plan to overhaul health and care services in Norfolk and Waveney has admitted there was secrecy over the shake-up to begin with.

Antek Lejk executive lead for the region's Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), made the confession when addressing Norfolk's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) this morning.

The STP is one of 44 across the country which aims to save the NHS money - in Norfolk and Waveney £300m needs to be saved over the next five years.

Mr Lejk said: 'I have to confess the whole process about setting up the STP was in secret a bit, we were told not to be too involved in public debate.'

One of the criticisms of STPs has been how staff and members of the public felt in the dark over changes to the health service.

But Mr Lejk, who is also the chief officer at North and South Norfolk CCGs, said this was so the public was not concerned about changes.

He said there was much work now being done with Healthwatch Norfolk to ensure people could get involved.

He said it was not necessarily essential for people to understand what the STP was. He said: 'Lots of staff probably don't know what the STP is, but the STP is not really a thing.'

But he added: 'We do need to do more to get an understanding on what we are saying.'

The issue of GP recruitment was also covered at the meeting, and documents revealed the STP had been award £2.2m to enable them to hire GPs from abroad.

Mr Lejk said: 'We're recruiting from abroad, we're looking at recruiting some doctors from the EU. But it's not just about GPs we are looking at other personnel.'

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Nearly 150 extra GPs will be needed in Norfolk and Waveney by 2036, according to a report from the Norfolk Strategic Member Forum earlier this year.

When asked whether complications in Brexit negotiations were causing issues, he added: 'Without getting political, it does not help and we have to do the best with what we've got.'

This year alone the STP is hoping to save £150m from the region's £2.6 billion health and social care budget. In other areas of the country that is leading to the closure of A&E departments and maternity units. But Mr Lejk said those plans were not on the cards in this region.

Consultants brought in

It was also revealed the STP is spending £250,000 on health consultants Attain, to help with 'developing a series of detailed options on service changes' within the region's three hospitals.

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Any recommendations would be taken back to HOSC but changes could include having one waiting list for procedures, or moving services such as ear nose and throat, or dermatology, into the community.

It is also hoped areas such as cardiology, urology, and radiology, can be improved, as there are national shortages of staff in these areas.

However, the over arching theme of the plan is for more people to be treated in the community, rather than in hospital.

And bosses are proposing up to 20 'integrated neighbourhood teams' - known as multispeciality community providers (MCPs) - to bring together groups of GPs, pharmacists, mental health specialists, and social care providers in one place.

More money for mental health

More money could be invested in mental health services, after the region's mental health trust was plunged into special measures by inspectors.

County councillor Emma Corlett asked Antek Lejk, executive lead of the region's health overhaul, whether more cash could be invested in mental health by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) at a meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee this morning.

She said the sector was 'underfunded'.

Mr Lejksaid: 'If we are going to do a fundamental review we have to look at the resources that go into it.

'We do have limited resources, but we have to be willing to challenge ourselves.

'If you look at the impact of mental health and how it impacts other services.

'For example if you leave someone untreated it impacts on other parts of the NHS.

'I think there will have to be more investment.'