With the recent news that NHS England and NHS Improvement are to formalise a change in the way system working will work across the health service, spelling an end to the clinical commissioning group (CCG) in favour of new integrated care system (ICS) structures.
In line with the timetable set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, every system has been asked to be ready to operate as an ICS from April 2021.
Responding to the newly-published proposals, NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) CEO, Lou Patten, has said: “These proposals signal a really significant moment for clinical commissioners. CCGs have been hugely successful in developing the vitally important partnership between clinicians, managers and lay members.
“It has been enlightening over the past few years to have a strong united clinical view about major service changes, patient pathways and the principle of primary care being the cornerstone of patient-centred care. This sets a really strong legacy for Integrated Care Systems.
“Whilst recognising that the majority of commissioning functions will continue at ICS level in what is being proposed, the great work at neighbourhood and place, enhanced by the focus on the pandemic must continue.
“The local stewardship role of CCGs and their joint working with local authorities must not be lost – we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.
“There is a huge amount of organisational memory within CCGs, and it is positive that there is a ‘continued employment promise’ within these plans to ensure staff are retained to continue the current and future commissioning responsibilities.
“I appreciate how this will land today with hard-working and Covid-weary staff, and that’s why NHSCC, as the only member body for CCGs, will work closely with NHS Confederation colleagues and the ICS network to support members every step of the way to transition. We will seek to influence NHSEI at the highest level in order to minimise disruption and destabilisation, consolidate the positive, and that way we can ensure the fantastic legacy of CCGs lives on in ICSs.”
Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, who the NHSCC are a part of, Danny Mortimer added: “The development of system working over recent years has demonstrated the vital importance of collaboration and partnership working and we now have a rare opportunity to make this the organising principle of the NHS.
“The legislation proposed today is a measured but important step forward and will help us turbo charge the move to delivering more integrated care to the public. We are clear that this will be better for both patients and the taxpayer.
“For decades, the NHS legislative framework has centred around the principle of competition between organisations to improve the quality of services.
“Our members tell us this is no longer the best way to improve the health of local communities, deliver higher quality care, and make more efficient use of resources. Greater collaboration and partnership working have been a defining feature of the response to coronavirus and we need to formally embed this into how the NHS operates in future.
“There is often anxiety about ‘another NHS reorganisation’, but the NHS and the partners we work with across social care and other public services have been on this journey now for several years. In many ways, NHS and care organisations have worked in spite of the existing legal framework to foster better ways of working locally. But the current legal and regulatory restrictions will only take us so far.
“As such, we believe it is the logical next step to establish these partnerships as statutory bodies and build on the progress that has been made in recent years bringing together service provision, strategic commissioning and clinical leaders, all of whom will have an obligation to collaborate to improve the health of the communities they serve.”