• PM says NHS plan will see NHS leaders spread the “very best… to every part of the country”
  • Says they face a number of bureaucratic obstructions

The prime minister has said “the most outstanding NHS leaders” face “competing incentives”, excessive “negotiations”, “templates that seem to put process ahead of patients”, and waste “too much time on reporting”. 

Theresa May gave a speech today at the Royal Free hospital in London, to announce the NHS funding deal revealed over the weekend.

She discussed the challenges in spreading best practice in the health service, saying: “We have hospitals that are world leading for patient care, but others that lie too far behind the best.”

Ms May indicated support for bringing trusts and foundation trusts together in groups or chains, to spread improvement, saying: “Our long-term plan must empower NHS leaders to spread the very best of the NHS to every part of the country.

“It must properly recognise and reward those who do so and hold those responsible for poor performance to account.”

In recent months NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton has indicated the organisation will more actively shape the provider “landscape”.

Ms May said efforts to improve faced bureaucratic barriers. She also said the government was open to legislation if the NHS put forward requests for changes.

“At its best the NHS is world class. But for decades it has been a challenge to spread that best practice,” she said.

“When I brought together some of the most outstanding NHS leaders, they told me why.

“Those who were innovating felt they were going against the grain. They described the competing incentives that lead to negotiations between different organisations at every step, and business cases and templates that seem to put process ahead of patients.

“Those who were taking on struggling trusts said their organisations were not compensated for their effort and wasted too much time on reporting.

“As one chief executive put it – sometimes you can spend so long reporting and providing assurance about the organisation you are trying to help, that you don’t actually have time to do the work that’s needed.

“So a critical part of the long-term plan for our NHS must be to change this.”

Targets under review and NHS legislation open to change - PM