Specialised services clinical networks

Clinical networks are clinically led groups of professionals, service users and organisations working together across professional, organisational and geographical boundaries. Clinical networks play a vital role in co-ordinating pathways of care, supporting equitable access to healthcare and assuring and improving quality.

We have identified seven key areas of network functionality that will be features of all commissioned specialised services clinical networks:

  • Service Delivery – plan and manage capacity and demand
  • Resources – clinical stewardship of resources across the whole pathway
  • Workforce – flexible, skilled, resilient staffing
  • Quality – improve quality, safety, patient experience and outcomes
  • Collaboration – working together at local, system, regional and national level
  • Transformation – plan sustainable services that meet the needs of all patients
  • Population health – assess need, improve health, reduce inequalities

While all networks will undertake some aspect of each of these functions, the emphasis will vary between networks. Most are strongly operationally focussed. Others have a greater focus on transformation, where they are the key delivery vehicle for national specialised transformation programmes. All make an important contribution to the operation of services, including recovery and efficiency alongside their focus on service improvement.

NHS England sets out the scope of work for specialised services clinical networks in a network specification. It  clearly sets out the core functions of each type of network. These specifications are available below and on the pages of the relevant clinical reference groups.

Specialised services clinical networks are commissioned jointly with integrated commissioning boards (ICBs) with an expectation that they take a central role in delivering transformation and improvement, supporting improvements in population health, tackling inequalities and variation, and improving value.

Specialised services clinical networks, in common with the services they support, often operate across multiple organisational boundaries, hospital, ICB and NHS England region. A joint system of governance and accountability enables ICBs and NHS England to manage clinical networks, aligning networks with system priorities. The focus of each network’s work is agreed through a single annual workplan that reflects both national priorities and local population health needs, signed off by all the ICBs and regions served by the network.