Accelerating the benefits of collaboration for patients and communities

In August 2021, drawing on the lessons of the pandemic, new partnerships between trusts and the mental health sector, NHS England published guidance on the critical role provider collaboratives would play in helping systems deliver better care.

Since then, provider collaboratives – partnerships of providers working together to tackle local challenges, improve patient outcomes, and enhance resilience – have gone from strength to strength. The vast majority of acute and mental health providers in England are now in at least one provider collaborative.

Through collaboratives, providers have already delivered significant benefits for patients. For people using mental health services, there have been reductions in inpatient bed use, lower readmissions, and a decrease in inappropriate out of area placements. Patients waiting for elective services have begun to benefit from the creation of elective hubs to support more effective management of backlogs. Meanwhile, the development of shared rotas, digital capabilities, and innovative workforce models is improving the resilience of services, and the consolidation of back-office functions is realising millions of pounds of substantial savings that can be reinvested to improve patient care.

We’ve also heard two clear messages from those involved in collaboratives. Firstly, that there are many more opportunities to realise the benefits of collaboration, and that doing so is essential if we’re to meet the enormous challenges facing our services and communities. But also that establishing meaningful partnerships, building trust, and identifying shared priorities and programmes takes time and effort, especially in the context of the same service pressures.

Provider Collaboratives Innovators scheme

This is why in November we launched a call for expressions of interest for the NHS England Provider Collaboratives Innovator scheme, whereby NHS England would look to work with nine collaboratives – one from each region – to help accelerate their development and the benefits they can deliver for patients. We received an incredible response, with 46 applications from all regions and sectors as we looked to select a diverse range of collaboratives from different sectors, and at all levels of development

Today, I’m delighted to announce our first innovators cohort.

  • Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Acute Hospital Alliance
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire West Mental Health Provider Collaborative
  • The Cheshire and Merseyside Acute and Specialist Trust Collaborative
  • Foundation Group Provider Collaborative
  • Leicestershire Partnership and Northamptonshire Healthcare Group
  • Mid and South Essex Community Collaborative
  • North East London Mental Health Learning Disability and Autism Provider Collaborative
  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Acute Federation
  • UCL Health Alliance

We will deliver the scheme in line with NHS England’s new operating framework.

This means we will co-design with each collaborative the support and expertise they would most value from NHS England to deliver their locally agreed priorities for delivering benefits for patients – from implementing innovative models of care across physical and mental health, transforming paediatric care, addressing workforce challenges and developing more effective partnerships with primary care to improve population health and improve patient outcomes.

The lessons from the scheme and our broader engagement with all collaboratives and systems will shape future policy around collaboratives and collaboration, ensuring national policy is based on the experience and expertise of our colleagues in the sector and on the frontline.

National support

While we have only selected nine collaboratives as part of the first wave of the scheme, our number one objective remains to support and accelerate development of every collaborative so that patients across the country can benefit.

We will ensure learnings from the scheme are made available to all – including through our NHS Futures page – in real time. We and the collaboratives involved will work with national bodies and other collaboratives to share lessons and resources generated as part of the scheme. We will also publish a maturity matrix for provider collaboratives on the NHS Futures platform which has been co-produced with providers and systems as a developmental tool for all collaboratives. Existing regional support forums and development activities for collaboratives will also continue.

If there was one message from the 46 different plans and priorities we reviewed as part of the application scheme, it was that collaboration between providers is at the forefront of efforts to transform services for the communities we serve. This is not in conflict with our move to system working, but rather is at the very heart of it. The momentum behind partnership and system working is stronger than ever, and I want to thank all of those working tirelessly across the NHS to harness the benefits of collaboration to improve care.

Mark is Chief Delivery Officer at NHS England. Reporting directly to the NHS Chief Executive, Mark is responsible for driving change across the NHS to support the move to system working and enable delivery.

The team that Mark leads is responsible for the creation of the new NHSE Operating Framework, the establishment of Integrated Care Systems and the continued development of providers, and for the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan. He is also the Senior Responsible Owner for the merger of Health Education England, NHS Digital, NHSX, and NHSE (formerly NHS England and NHS Improvement), one of the largest change programmes across the NHS.

Mark joined the NHS as a nurse 30 years ago and held several director roles in London NHS Trusts before taking on the role of regional chief operating officer for NHS Improvement, working across the Midlands and East of England. Immediately prior to joining NHS England, Mark was Chief Executive at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust