Efforts to develop quality indicators and a tariff payment system for community services providers have taken a leap forward after winning the support of the main national health leadership organisations, HSJ has discovered.

Representatives from Monitor, NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and the NHS Commissioning Assembly all pledged their support to work begun by the Aspirant Community Foundation Trust Network last year.

At a meeting in London last week the bodies agreed to form a programme executive to continue the development of quality indicators and tariff. This work will receive back office support from the NHS Confederation and Foundation Trust Network.

National support for the project is seen as a boost for the 18 standalone community services trusts. They see the development of quality indicators, outcomes based activity measures and a form of tariff payment system as key to levelling the playing field with the wider health sector, especially after recent setbacks related to the introduction of a less favourable tariff.

Work is already underway to develop outcome measures and quality indicators through clinician led expert teams examining specific care pathways. It is hoped their work will allow commissioners to gain a measure of community delivered activity which is as accurate as that they currently receive for acute hospitals. Most contracts currently see clinical commissioning groups paying for community services on a block contract basis.

There is also a long term desire to develop a tariff payment system which would be similar to payment by results but be much more focused on outcomes, potentially involving, for example, year of care tariffs. These would require improved data and information systems.

The work could impact on the development of payment by results in mental health which has been hit by delays and concerns over data quality.

Christina Walters, national programme director for the project, said: “The level and extent of support from the national bodies is very encouraging. The next steps are to get more of the quality indicators developed over coming months through the workshops we are running for community service providers, and strengthen the alignment with the work of the national organisations.”

She said she hoped to get more organisations involved in the work as well as links with social care and patient groups.

“We will press on with clinically led workshops to agree on appropriate frameworks for evidence-based quality indicators and outcome measures covering the types of services and teams most commonly present in community providers.”

This work to is expected to be completed by the end of 2014 but developments of a currency, tariff and data systems will take longer.