Lords committee backs ‘Office of Health and Care Sustainability’ formation
Report argues current NHS leadership “incapable” of effectively using data and introducing required technology to help meet aims of STP agenda, urges longer-term planning vision
The Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS has recommended forming an official office focused on integrated health and care services, while also calling for a more streamlined approach to manage technology plans across England.
The group’s findings have concluded that current NHS leadership is “incapable” of pushing forward with innovation strategies, as well as using data effectively and introducing new technologies to their operations without reforms.
Commissioned by the House of Lords last May to consider sustainability in the NHS, the committee said that an ‘Office for Health and Care Sustainability’ should be formed to consider the challenges facing the transformation of services over the scale of 15 to 20 years and report them to parliament.
“[The office] should play no part in the operation of the health and care systems, or make decisions, but should be given the independence to speak freely about issues relating to its remit,” the report said.
The committee said that the office should focus on providing data on changing demographic trends and diseases, as well as requirements for workforce and staff skills to meet these shifting needs. The body would also be required to report on stability in adult health and social care provision funding, according to the report.
Among challenges facing current efforts to reform care, the report has concluded that there was little clarity over who had responsibility for leading innovation and technology focuses, particularly with identifying bodies and areas of the NHS that are seen to be falling behind with wider national initiatives.
“Unwarranted levels of variations in patient outcomes are unacceptably undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of the NHS and there is no plan to bring about a greater consistency in levels of performance,” said the report.
“The government should require a newly unified NHS England and NHS Improvement to work with commissioners to achieve greater levels of consistency in NHS efficiency and performance at a local level.”
According to the committee, an immediate opportunity to revise technology management exists in ongoing work to implement Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
“Greater levels of investment and service responsibility should be given to those who improve the most,” said the findings.
STPs are intended to set out a clearer strategic direction to integrate and overhaul UK health and social care services and the systems underpinning them up to meet the aims of NHS England's 'Five Year Forward View' plan.
44 regions are currently in the process of putting together STPs to detail aims and needs for transforming their operations, with funding still to be finalised.
“The government should make it clear that the adoption of innovation and technology, after appropriate appraisal, across the NHS is a priority and it should decide who is ultimately responsible for this overall agenda,” added the report.
Last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond used the final planned Spring Budget to outline more funding to support local government to deal with health and social care and for the NHS to develop STPs. £325m in up front funding was set aside for the strongest plans.
However, the commitments were seen as not seen as sufficient to meet the full needs and challenges facing efforts to integrate care service delivery.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, at the time, questioned the pledge to provide £2bn in additional grant funding to English authorities up to 2020, claiming the money was insufficient to cover both the current and longer-term pressures on care.
“The budget did not provide the funding necessary now for the crisis in our NHS, which the British Medical Association reckons needs an extra £10bn. It didn’t provide the funding necessary to end the state of emergency in social care, which needs £2bn a year just to plug the gaps, according to the King’s Fund,” he said. “That is not met by £2bn over three years, the money is needed now.”