The Department of Health’s top priorities for the coming year include improving links with outside groups, partly as a response to concerns about failure to communicate the NHS reforms.
The DH published its Corporate Plan 2012-13 on Monday. It is the first plan for the DH published with permanent secretary Una O’Brien’s new top team in place. The team was completed in February when three director generals were appointed for public health, external relations, and operations and assurance.
Some of the Corporate Plan responds to concerns highlighted in the capability review of the department published in March. The plan also includes details of some policy intentions.
One of the five priorities identified is called “Our Partners”, under which the DH plans on “achieving strategic clarity, building a common sense of purpose by developing strong relationships with our external stakeholders”.
The DH also intends on “developing new ways of working that reflect the leadership role we will play in the new system; the importance of engaging with our partners; and building understanding of our work within the health and care system and the wider public”.
Specific plans include moves to “build stronger partnerships, based on mutual respect and understanding, openness in policy making, and collaborative delivery”; and to “improve departmental capacity and capability to understand and engage stakeholders”.
External communication was one of the areas highlighted as a problem in the March capability review, although this was partly blamed on some parts of the government’s reform plans being unclear. The capability review said a “state of considerable flux is causing concern, as well as limiting stakeholders’ ability to plan for the new paradigm”.
The Corporate Plan says efforts to transform the DH include introduction of a new pay strategy, people strategy, and other HR policies in August.
It also includes some updates on policy. It says there will be a white paper on “Care and Support” this month, and consultation on a draft care and support bill next month.
The plan also says the DH will “support integration of health and adult social care… and develop plans for implementation informed by the NHS Future Forum’s report [on integration] and the forthcoming Care and Support White Paper”.
The DH will also “establish the framework for beginning to realise the benefits of reform”, according to the plan. This will include setting objectives for improving outcomes and for policy reforms, including “decentralisation of power to clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards; promoting use choice and control” and “freeing up providers within a well-regulated system”.