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Supporting the NHS 2020

The crisis has shown true NHS innovation that we must treasure

iStock / Getty Images Plus / interstid

Lou Patten

CEO, NHS Clinical Commissioners

The pandemic has tested the mettle of NHS England in so many waysClinical commissioners across the country are working to help support the effort and implement new ways of working as part oft the NHS and care for their communities.

It is testament to the monumental efforts made by staff that even now, with the continued fight against COVID-19, there are new-found ways of working that have changed the NHS for the better. This is as true for clinical commissioners as for any other part of the system. 

Commissioning evolution 

In the NHS, clinical commissioners working in CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) are the glue that holds the system together. They bring stewardship, resource allocation and planning for the long-term improvement of a population’s health; they set outcomes, manage the all too challenging fixed financial budgets and are accountable to their populations for service changes.

The pandemic saw procurement functions pulled into NHS England to achieve at scale purchasing and provider contracts were moved to blocked payments. This freed up valuable time for commissioners to concentrate on what their systems and populations needed. 

Helping to support the COVID-19 effort

Commissioners have been involved in a wide range of activity during the pandemic; some very visible, such as supporting the new Nightingale hospitals, establishing quarantine care homes for patients discharged from hospital and delivery of a digital-first primary care within three months. Other areas of support include distribution of PPE and computer hardware and establishing system-wide governance to co-ordinate individual organisations’ COVID-19 responses. 

There have been few silver linings, but one CCG Chair described the targeted support they were able to give rough sleepers, that were put into accommodation, as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’. Rough sleepers on average die thirty years earlier than the average person. 

In the NHS, clinical commissioners working in CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) are the glue that holds the system together.

Collaboration and partnerships are key 

Planning and coordinating together as health and care systems has been key; collaborating, breaking silos and boundaries between local government, voluntary sector groups, and other parts of the NHS to deliver the best support possible to people. New relationships have been established as well as strengthening existing ones, data sharing has improved to ensure patients received better care.

Looking into the future, commissioners must work closely with their systems to plan how they collectively respond to the emerging picture of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on specific communities. 

As the NHS faces potential legislative change into an Integrated Care System model, we will support our CCG members to ensure that the innovations and gains made during the pandemic coupled with their clinical expertise continue to shape the future NHS. 

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