New national model to tackle variation in specialist healthcare services

For the first time patients requiring specialised treatment can look forward to the same level and standards of care. The NHS Commissioning Board has published the new Operating Model for commissioning specialised services setting out how a single, national system will ensure patients are offered consistent, high quality services across the country.

The number of patients requiring specialised services is small with services located in specialist centres in major towns and cities across England. Concentrating services to provide the same national standards of quality will ensure that specialist staff can be more easily recruited and the necessary levels of training maintained.

The new Operating Model and associated Commissioning Intentions mark a clear move away from regional commissioning to a single national approach to both commissioning and contracting. By bringing together the current ten different systems for commissioning specialised services, it provides the opportunity to innovate and introduce new technologies to benefit patients and improve health outcomes in a systematic way.

Underpinning the Operating Model are the Commissioning Intentions for 2013/14 ensuring for the first time that the delivery, quality and access for all prescribed specialised services is standard across the country.

Ian Dalton, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at the NHS Commissioning Board said,

“This improved system will ensure national consistency in accessing services, reduce variation, and set clear quality standards leading to better health outcomes for patients. It will also allow us to start developing an outcomes framework for rare and specialised conditions, thus starting to move the focus of our discussions with providers from contract inputs to health outcomes.

“This is a real opportunity to dramatically improve the way we provide services for people with rare and specialised conditions through having clearly articulated standards for services.

“Our next step will be to shortly launch a public consultation on the first ever set of national service specifications and clinical policies for specialised services.  This will be the first time we have had clear national policy and sets our clear intention for the future”

The new system will provide a clear focus on a range of rare conditions and low volume treatments ranging from medical genetics, kidney disorders and uncommon cancers to complex cardiac interventions, burn care and some specialised services for children.

James Palmer, the new Clinical Director for Specialised Services at the NHS Commissioning Board said,

“Strong clinical involvement has been central to the development of this approach. We are working closely in partnership with Clinical Commissioning Groups and colleagues on the frontline to ensure the whole patient pathway is as seamless and locally responsive as possible in meeting patients’ needs.”

Specialised services accounts for approximately 10% of the total NHS budget and accounts for approximately £11.8 billion per annum.

More information is available in the specialised commissioning resources area.