Delivering the Five Year Forward View: the role of public-private partnerships: part 3

12 July 2016

The Five Year Forward View is a much needed strategic plan to improve population health and reduce the NHS funding gap. It recognises that the current primary and secondary care models in the NHS are fundamentally broken, and not able to deliver the considerable improvements in health and efficiency that are now needed. Through the New Models of Care initiative new ways of working and organisational forms are being developed in the effort to break through this challenge. Public- private partnerships offer the opportunity to accelerate progress, but a more radical approach to these partnerships is now needed.

The traditional approach to such partnerships in the NHS is to procure single service lines to meet a capacity shortfall – the procurement of diagnostic services from private sector partners is a classic example.  This is a legitimate line of continued development.  However greater opportunities exist if we take a broader pathway and economic perspective. Rather than just procuring capacity, if we look at the entire pathway and where lies cost, we can make more radical changes that improve outcomes and reduce cost.  But to be able to do this requires a move away from the current tariff based system.

At a strategic level, we are seeing the development of new organisational models – hospital groups and chains – which aim to create sufficient scale and standardisation to tackle the health and economic challenge. Private sector partners can help us understand how to operationalise models that are well understood in their sector, the different leaderships styles and skills that are required to run such models, and also the  standard operating models (often technology driven) that need to underpin a more robust approach to standardising and  driving out variation

In the NHS we also have much to learn from the private sector in domains other than direct service delivery. We face the same workforce and cultural challenges as other employers – hiring, retaining, engaging and motivating a multi-generational workforce. In my own organisation we are increasingly working with private sector partners who can help us learn how to better engage our greatest NHS resource – our staff. We are learning about crowdsourcing techniques to engage staff in the development of our strategy, and about improvement science skills that enable our staff to take control of their own environment. As leaders in the NHS we have a huge responsibility to create an environment and climate in which our staff can be at their best to respond to the challenges described above.  There is important learning to be gained from private sector partners in this area.

Valerie Bartlett, Deputy Chief Executive, Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust

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