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In the search for answers over how the NHS should respond to the challenges prompted by the covid-19 pandemic, health chiefs are leaving no stones unturned.

The latest attempt for inspiration is to look at what health systems in other nations are doing, with eight countries selected for close inspection.

They are: Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Canada. All of which are “comparable” to England, according to a tender detailing the work.

NHS England also wants the analysis to cover other countries around the world which are members of the OECD.

Time is of the essence. The regulator wants a “desk-based analysis” completed by the end of this month, while a full report – based on round tables with experts and officials from each nominated country – is sought by early autumn.

The key themes to be investigated are dealing with the elective backlog, workforce challenges, retaining benefits introduced in the last 15 months, and the future resilience of health services.

With critics sometimes eager to highlight “British exceptionalism” as a major flaw of the government and public sector, it is good to see the NHS looking across the seas for ideas on how to tackle the Herculean task ahead.

Who goes there?

We now have a clearer view of who will make up the NHS board of each integrated care system.

NHS England guidance published yesterday stipulated there should be at least 10 mandatory members for “ICS NHS body” boards. At a minumum they must have:

  • Four executives – the chief executive and finance, nursing and medical directors
  • Three independent non-executives: a chair and at least two others
  • Three “partner members”: one from an NHS trust/foundation trust in the patch, one from general practice, and one from a local authority.

Beyond this there is flexibility, although if they add more ICS NHS body board members these must be approved by NHS England.

It stresses that decisions should be reached by “consensus”, with a vote “considered a last resort”. The chair can make decisions if there is disagreement, or the ICS could “draw on” NHS England mediation.

Issues of controversy on this include how much say the health and social care secretary has over appointments, and which roles will be openly recruited, rather than filled with incumbent ICS leaders. Read Sharon Brennan’s full story here.