Being a vanguard is about breaking boundaries and doing things differently, writes Samantha Jones

Just over seven months ago we launched 29 new care model vanguards which are leading on developing new and better ways of providing care to act as blueprints for the NHS in England. Stretching from Northumbria to the Isle of Wight, the vanguards are radically redesigning the way they provide care.

Samantha Jones director for new care models at NHS England

Samantha Jones

Since then, another 21 vanguards have been announced - 15 are working to sustain the clinical and financial viability of local hospitals and reduce avoidable variation in the quality and cost of care, with the remainder focusing on improving the coordination of urgent and emergency care services.

The vanguards have been given access to a £200m transformation fund, which is supporting them. However, being a vanguard is about much more than money. It’s about breaking boundaries and doing things differently. It’s about turning upside down our approach to NHS innovation and change and social care.

Fundamental change

At the heart of this is the way we engage and involve staff. It’s about empowering doctors, nurses, social workers and others to take control of the services they provide, whether in hospitals, local communities, online, by Skype or via the widening array of health apps.

Without this, our aims - for example, joining up GP, hospital, community and mental health services, or moving specialist care out of hospitals into the community - will not be met.

The vanguards are also fundamentally changing the way they work with patients and local people. Patients and local people are not something we do to, but people we do with and for. This includes making sure the care and support we offer is truly patient centred. Shared decision making should be our default, and it is central to the values that guide the new care models programme and the 50 vanguards.

‘The vanguards are fundamentally changing the way they work with patients and local people’

They are also focusing on narrowing health inequalities. Identifying and involving people with the worst health outcomes in order to improve their access to, and experience of, services.

But vanguards do not have all the answers when it comes to engaging staff and empowering patients and local people. That’s why, through a national support programme, we’re working with the vanguards to develop the NHS and social care leaders of the future. This includes a focus on being able to work across different care settings, breaking down organisational boundaries and speeding up integration.

We’re also supporting the vanguards to work strategically with local voluntary and community organisations, benefiting from their reach and diversity. They can also act as a neutral and trusted broker to start conversations with patients and local people, especially those who are disadvantaged or marginalised.

With NHS and social care funding as challenged as it is, it would be mad to say money isn’t important. However, you can’t put a price on the importance of giving patients, local people and staff real ownership of the care we provide.

Samantha Jones is director of the new care models programme. Follow her on Twitter at @SamanthaJNHS. For more information visit