DH scraps deadline for PCT provider arm strategies

Posted on August 7, 2009. Filed under: Arm's length providers, News stories |

Health Service Journal | Helen Crump | 6 August 2009

The Department of Health has scrapped its centrally set deadline for primary care trusts to create provider arm strategies. It comes amid fears of PCTs obsessed by organisational structure making poor decisions.

Commissioners and providers had been told to come up with “organisational options for providing community services” by October, but in a letter to PCT and strategic health authority chief executives last week, NHS chief executiveDavid Nicholson said the timetable would be dropped in favour of an SHA led approach.

Mr Nicholson said: “I have become concerned lest PCTs as commissioners and providers focus too much on issues of future organisational structure at the expense of delivering service transformation.”

He said SHAs would now determine the timetable for the future of provider arm services.

HSJ understands the DH will performance manage SHAs in this through their assurance framework.

Mr Nicholson said the move did not constitute a change in policy and was instead “about keeping PCT decisions safe, while moving faster not slower”.

The letter also stresses plans must be “cost effective” and “consistent with implementing a robust approach to quality, innovationproductivity and prevention”.

A senior Whitehall source said the letter signalled a “change in management emphasis” to focus on quality and effectiveness rather than form.

NHS Confederation PCT provider forum chair Matthew Winn said: “It’s probably helpful to take out what was an artificial timeline because some areas were really struggling to meet that anyway.”

But he warned the letter should not be used as an excuse to relax the sense of urgency.

He said: “My guess is over the next six months people will start reappraising and reviewing these plans [to see if they] are affordable and do they give the local health economy the outcomes they want. If not, they will have to be revised.”

Mr Nicholson’s letter, which was accompanied by guidance on setting up PCT provider committees, came as NHS Hull approved plans to turn its provider arm into a social enterprise at a private board meeting despite opposition.

Chair Kath Lavery said: “Instead of knocking it we should celebrate the fact that Hull is courageous and forward-thinking enough to undertake this work and to lead the way for scores of other NHS trusts.”


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