NHS top dogs are poised to spring their post-election priorities on the service, while the more lowly exchange anxieties, advice and cynicism. It will all be happening at the NHS Confederation conference. Here are five themes we can expect to feature.
1. Stevens does Marr
Sunday morning’s agenda-setting Andrew Marr Show is due to feature the NHS England chief executive and Messiah, Simon Stevens, kicking off the week of this year’s NHS Confederation conference. Expect his messages on this high-profile and political BBC One platform to focus on NHS funding prospects (mindful of the approaching budget and spending review); the need for tougher approaches to preventing illness; championing patients; and on how extremely hard the NHS is now working to modernise and up its game on efficiency. See HSJ over the next few days for much more on what Mr Stevens sees as the NHS’s next steps.
2. Productivity and efficiency
Monitor’s David Bennett substantially turned up the volume on NHS savings with talk of tough intervention in an interview with HSJ finance specialist Crispin Dowler yesterday. Expect this message to be rammed home at Confed by both Stevens and Jeremy Hunt, perhaps with new details of how the Centre sees the service beginning to scale its £22bn savings mountain. The health secretary now needs to supplement his (at times expensive) credentials on care quality with Treasury-friendly financial credibility.
3. Same hymn sheet?
Meanwhile, the chief executives of all six national NHS bodies are due to speak on a single platform together, on Thursday, presumably with the hope that they will all sing from the same hymn sheet.
The hymn sheet has two hymns: Efficiency, and the Five Year Forward View. Look forward to contributions from CQC chief David Behan, whose statutory purpose lies elsewhere, and the NHS Trust Development Authority’s Bob Alexander, who has been more candid than most about the scale of providers’ financial challenge.
4. Whole system tensions
As HSJ’s editor pointed out on Friday, many of those running NHS providers are struggling to entirely buy into the Forward View’s positive modernisation agenda. Staring at undefeatable deficits, they are feeling “unfairly picked on”.
Many commissioners, though, are now also seething. Clinical commissioning groups are already having to fork out more than they hoped to in 2015-16 after hospital providers won concessions in the Battle of the Tariff. Now CCGs have been directed by NHS England to plan for more hospital activity – undermining trust in their sums and independence, and better care fund ambitions to prevent admissions. The stated intention is to prepare the NHS to better meet waiting time targets, but it may also put more CCGs in the red, while going some way to assuage the provider sector.
Might this newly shared financial anguish mean more chief execs finding common ground across the commissioner-provider split in Liverpool’s bars this year?
5. ‘Success regime’ names
Full speed on the Forward View following the general election means getting on with bits that couldn’t be done before. That list includes specialist and acute service centralisation; turning up the heat on staff terms and conditions; and announcing a handful of health economies in severe distress and due for special attention and intervention under the new (and slightly Orwellian-sounding) “success regime”.
NHS England may get its act together and name the “success regime” areas – one for each of its four regions – during Confed week. HSJ understands North Cumbria and Essex are all-but confirmed to be on the list, while north central or south west London are the candidates in the capital. Kent is the most likely to be named in the south region, though there might have been a bit of competition from Sussex.