The NHS Confederation is calling for tougher policy implementation, increased flexibility and better long-term planning to ensure that NHS bodies and local authorities work together to provide better care.

The report Partnership Working: the facts, published this week, says 'mechanisms, tools and visions', proposed in the two recent white papers, need to be turned into 'harder policy' to improve collaboration.

The report warns that the guidance does not have firm outcome measures and consequently is likely to suffer as NHS trusts aim to hit the 18-week maximum wait target by the end of next year.

It calls for shared targets between the NHS and local authorities and for trusts to be allowed to plan five or 10 years ahead, rather than the current year-on-year planning.

'Being able to plan over a longer term would enable more strategic partnerships to form. This would help organisations to meet targets such as well-being targets around smoking, obesity and activity, as well as move more care into the community which will reduce the burden on the acute sector [and] help acute trusts to meet the
18-week target,' it says.

The report was prompted by a survey of primary care trust chief executives last year which the confederation said showed cause for optimism: 76 per cent of PCTs rated their relationship with their local authority as good or very good, while none said it was very poor.