The long term plan
The Community Network has made a powerful case for the important role community services should play in the development of health and care services over the next decade.
Following an intervention from the network’s board, we were invited to meet with NHS England and NHS Improvement to carry out crucial engagement across the sector to ensure the NHS Long Term Plan recognised community services as a central pillar of the NHS.
The network has long argued for greater national focus and a greater understanding of the vital role community services play in supporting the wider health and care system.
Following the network’s contribution our first chair, Matthew Winn, was invited to be lead for the plan’s Ageing Well programme. We welcomed this senior level of representation for community services. Matthew’s appointment reinforces the acknowledgement that the needs and potential of the sector are central to achieving the plan’s ambitions.
Funding agenda for change pay uplifts
When the pay uplifts for agenda for change staff were confirmed, it became apparent that posts providing local authority funded NHS services beyond 2020/21 had not been included by the national bodies. We raised concerns with NHS England/Improvement and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) over the impacts of this issue, which would have been felt across the sector, from integrated providers of acute and community services to standalone community trusts and community interest companies. There was a substantial risk that the task of making up the financial shortfall in wages for staff delivering local authority commissioned services could fall to providers.
As a result of our efforts, the national bodies acknowledged this is an issue and agreed that the uplift for these staff would be centrally funded. Funding for 2019/20 was confirmed in September’s Spending Round, and we are continuing to push for clarity on what the recently-announced uplift in the public health grant will mean for providers of community services in future years.
Provider landscape and organisational form
The Kirkup report into Liverpool Community NHS Trust included reflections on the optimal organisational form for delivering community services. We held a roundtable with NHS Improvement to raise concerns about this focus. The conclusions from the roundtable fed into the NHS Long Term Plan and ensured NHS Improvement did not pursue plans to direct a preferred organisational model for community services.
NHS Providers deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, published a piece in the HSJ defending the place of all types of community service delivery, including standalone trusts, in response to an article suggesting that “the writing is on the wall for standalone community services.”
Community services data
With the plan’s commitment to community health crisis response within two hours of referral, and reablement care within two days of referral, the need to collect and analyse data about the sector will continue to grow. High quality data will also ensure we can highlight the value of community services and the crucial role the sector plays.
We have engaged with the DHSC and NHS Digital in the roll out of the community services data set (CSDS). The Community Network is represented on the CSDS stakeholder engagement group to ensure it is developed effectively and usefully for providers. We have also promoted the need for providers to submit to the data set and hosted a presentation on it at a Community Network event.