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10.06.19

The NHS Assembly: Ensuring diverse views are heard

Source: NHE May/June 2019

Policy officer at NHS Providers, Leanora Volpe, outlines how the new NHS Assembly will inform the NHS Long-Term Plan.

In October 2018 we welcomed the announcement of the new NHS Assembly and identified the four core features essential to securing its success in providing the breadth and depth of engagement needed to deliver the Long-Term Plan. We said that the NHS Assembly would need a clear purpose and vision, with a clearly defined role and remit, and that the focus of the NHS Assembly would need to be closely aligned with the ambitions of the Long-Term Plan and underpinned by a realistic task which the health sector could deliver within the agreed funding envelope.

The Assembly has now been formed, its membership announced, and its first meeting held in its capacity as a guiding coalition for the implementation of the NHS Long-Term Plan. The Assembly’s membership is a broad church with representatives from across the NHS, including representatives of patients and service users, members of the voluntary and community sector, clinicians and leaders from across the NHS. We are pleased to be directly involved via our chief executive, Chris Hopson, and to see a number of trust chairs and chief executives around the table.

The diversity of the group is a positive step towards ensuring the voices of all those who will see the impact of changes in the NHS are heard. It brings people from across the system with different experience, expertise and skills into one place to influence the fulfilment/delivery of the Long-Term Plan.

Bringing together policymakers, health system leaders and people who provide and receive NHS care is an opportunity to share perspectives and ensure action is aligned with their views and needs. The value of these diverse voices to those who are developing policy and implementing service transformation should not be underestimated.

This is even more the case because the publication of the Long-Term Plan in January brought to light the scale of ambition for the NHS. It will be no mean feat for the NHS to undergo the transformation described in the plan to improve the integration of care on three fronts – mental health and physical health, health and social care, and at the interface of primary and secondary care.

The fact the NHS will need to transform and improve how care is delivered in the context of rising demand, workforce challenges and with a need to recover performance against key targets makes it all the more challenging. The public will expect something for the increased funding promised to the NHS, and the NHS will be expected to fulfil the many promises outlined in the plan.

We welcomed the Long-Term Plan and the creation of the NHS Assembly as a moment to reset and reestablish coproduction as a core pillar of NHS policy. The Long-Term Plan provides a framework to guide the NHS, but detailed, bespoke engagement with multiple stakeholders will still be required to develop and implement key programmes to underpin the plan. The recent engagement with the provider sector as part of the development of the interim people plan provides a good model for this.

The NHS Assembly has been tasked with an important job: to ensure that the voices of all those who will see the impact of changes to health and care as a result of the Long-Term Plan are heard. We look forward to seeing what can be achieved in this new spirit of co-creation.

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