What NHS England isn’t telling you, and more indispensable weekly insight for commissioners, by Dave West

Just don’t call it a delay

You might have heard the cries of relief down the corridor: officialdom has acknowledged that many sustainability and transformation plans will not be completed by the end of June.

This must not be referred to in meetings as a delay, deferral, or U-turn - rather a move to a “bespoke process”, an acknowledgement that “some plans will be more detailed than others”.

The firm deadline has become a “pipeline”.

Although all 44 patches will have to send some kind of document up the line by 5pm on 30 June, some will be pretty basic – comfortably contained within the 30 page limit. With many finance departments still arguing over the detail of 2016-17, STP financial submissions (ie, the fiddly bit) now don’t have to be in until mid September.

Plans will be assessed and signed off in “phases or waves”. For a few swots this will mean early approval, for others it will mean the process drags on throughout 2016-17.

In fairness, some were always aware that the end of June was not going to be realistic. Only readers who are unfamiliar with the NHS planning process will be completely surprised to see a hard deadline evolve into just another “checkpoint” in the eternal contracting cycle of life.

Still, it’s not too late to book some last minute holiday or, if you prefer, to cancel any planned for July so you can carry on the visioneering.

The Commissioner’s reading list

This will be a weekly pick from the barrage of publications, articles and tweets which may interest commissioners.

  • The other bit of good news: thus far, instructions to STPs are still relatively focused on the high level - the few “critical decisions”. Obviously there are the financial annexes too.
  • CCG governing body member declares the STP process is “not democratic”: Yep, you’re getting the hang of it. 
  • Readers commenting on the story about growing resistance to the secrecy of STPs make a fair point though. Says one anonymous contributor: “I support the need to get on fast with proposals for big change so as to make the NHS viable, but someone is going to challenge this secrecy in fairly short order, because the underlying requirements for public involvement in the development of proposals, and public consultation prior to their implementation, have not gone away.”
  • While NHS England is still dragging its heels over its own vision for the future of commissioning, in the shape of a long promised “CCG roadmap”, others continue to opine about it. The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust have a joint report coming up on “how clinical commissioning has evolved up to now and what it will need to do to adapt and change in the future”. King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham has written a blog ahead of the publication.
  • It’s hard times in East Surrey: Struggling CCG spent £500,000 on two interims last year

Dave West, senior bureau chief

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