NHS England has said urgent and emergency care networks should be set up across the country to set and monitor standards of care and ‘designate urgent care facilities’.

The network boards will have members representing primary and secondary care including commissioners, acute trusts, NHS 111, local authorities, and health and wellbeing boards.

Accident scene

The urgent and emergency care networks will cover populations of up to 5 million

Guidance has been published by NHS England in the latest stage of its urgent and emergency care review, led by national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and director for acute episodes of care Professor Keith Willett.

The networks will cover populations of between 1 million and 5 million.

HSJ asked NHS England what regions the networks would cover but it had not responded in time for publication.

The guidance says their purpose is to “improve the consistency and quality of urgent and emergency care by bringing together system resilience groups and other stakeholders to address challenges in the urgent and emergency care system that are difficult for single SRGs to address in isolation”.

They will have to ensure “effective patient flow” through the whole urgent care system. The boards will also set benchmarks for outcomes across primary care, community, social care, mental health and hospital services.

Workforce will also be the networks’ responsibility by “establishing adequate workforce provision and sharing of resources across the network”.

The guidance says the networks should have a focus on “relationships rather than structures”.

They will be expected to produce long term plans to deliver the aims of the wider urgent and emergency care review.

NHS England has said each board should include representation from:

  • system resilience groups;
  • clinical commissioning groups, including the lead commissioner for ambulance services);
  • all acute hospital and urgent care centres;
  • at least one health and wellbeing board;
  • at least one NHS 111 provider;
  • at least one GP out of hours provider;
  • at least one ambulance service;
  • at least one community provider;
  • at least one mental health trust and provider of health based place of safety;
  • at least one local authority;
  • community pharmacy services;
  • Health Education England through the local education and training board;
  • local Healthwatch; and
  • commissioned independent providers.

A senior commissioner should chair the network, and if this is not a clinician the network should consider appointing a clinical co-chair, the guidance says.