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05.02.18

STPs to assume ‘increasingly prominent role’ in 2018-19 service improvements

NHS England has reiterated its priorities for the next financial year, including continued investment in mental health and moving further towards better integrated models of care.

In the Refreshing NHS Plans 2018-19 document, plans for the next financial year are outlined, which includes details on how the next steps of the Five Year Forward View will be taken.

The plans tell trusts, CCGs and other NHS organisations that “it is our collective responsibility to ensure we deliver the best possible health service within the funds available.” These investments include an additional £540m for mental health and £1.6bn in 2018-19 for emergency and urgent care.

It also tells England’s sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) that they are expected to take “an increasingly prominent role” in planning and managing efforts to improve services in the next financial year.  

This includes, for example, ensuring a system-wide approach to operating plans, working with clinical leaders and identifying efficiency opportunities on a large scale.

Confed: Funding comes with ‘too many strings attached’

Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation, gave a backhanded compliment to the plans, arguing that “at least it was realistic” as expecting the NHS to deliver more than has been achieved this year would raise expectations and place further burdens on frontline care.

“The current fragmented system makes things difficult for local leaders who want to act as system leaders but are constrained by organisational regulation,” he stated. “The fact that this guidance recognises the pressures facing both those organisations which commission and those who deliver NHS services is therefore an important and welcome signal for all parts of the NHS.  
 
“But we remain concerned that funding still comes with too many strings attached. We must collectively make sure this money goes where it is needed most – patient care.”

Chief executive of NHS Confed’s Mental Health Network, Sean Duggan, also commented: “Although the vast of majority of CCGs achieved the mental health investment standard in 2016-17, we are delighted the guidance reconfirms that ‘each and every CCG’ ensures they reach the investment standard in 2018-19.”

Positive steps towards place-based systems

NHS Clinical Commissioners co-chair Dr Graham Jackson added that it was good to see the plans maintain the direction of travel towards an integrated system based on place.

“Clinical commissioners have played an important role in transforming healthcare to benefit their patients and populations and will continue to play a critical part of the changing landscape,” he commented.  

“Our members will be pleased to see the recognition that CCGs also needs some dedicated support in the form of additional allocation funding and greater flexibility in the use of the budget locally as the sector wrestles to manage the finances for today while still needing to plan for tomorrow.”

Top Image: Sean Dempsey, PA Images

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