Nurses should be denied a seat on the boards of GP commissioning consortia, the government’s Future Forum has recommended.
The forum, tasked with drawing up a series of recommendations to improve the Health Bill, said it had concluded that it was “neither desirable or practical” for nurses and other health professional groups to all be represented at board level in consortia.
The recommendation, if approved by ministers tomorrow, will spark fury from the nursing profession, over 1,000 members of which had signed Nursing Times’ Seat on the Board campaign calling for nurse representation on boards.
The forum instead recommended that nurses should be part of clinical networks and “senates” set up to advise commissioning decisions.
Sixteen recommendations on amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill were today published by the forum, which was set up during the “pause” in its progress through parliament, following widespread criticism that the concerns of clinicians about the legislation had not been adequately addressed.
The forum acknowledged that many of the clinicians its members had spoken to during their listening exercise had highlighted the value of the skills their “colleagues in management brought to the table”.
“Many groups felt the solution was to secure places on the boards of commissioning consortia,” the forum said in its report. Both the Royal College of Nursing and Nursing Times have been calling for nurses to have a seat on the board, as have groups representing hospital doctors.
However, the report added: “Others had concerns that this would be a tokenistic approach rather than one which would achieve genuine multi‐professional involvement.”
The forum said there must be arrangements for multi-professional involvement in the design and commissioning of services “at every level of the system”, but ruled against a seat on the board for nurses and other professions.
The report states: “It became clear that if all those who legitimately feel they have a contribution to make to commissioning decisions were to be part of the governance bodies of commissioning consortia these would be too large to fulfil their prime duties.
“We therefore concluded it is neither desirable or practical for the governing bodies of consortia to be representative of every group.”
Instead, it said: “The bill should require commissioning consortia to obtain all relevant multi‐professional advice to inform commissioning decisions.
“In support of this, there should be a strong role for clinical and professional networks in the new system and multi-speciality clinical senates should be established to provide strategic advice to local commissioning consortia, health and wellbeing boards and the NHS Commissioning Board.”
In his introduction to the forum’s report, its chair Professor Steve Field said: “It was right to pause and reflect. It has, however, been a destabilising period for the NHS and an unsettling time for staff and for patients.
“It is time for the pause to end. I believe that the advice and recommendations we present in this report, if acted upon, will help the NHS to move forward and refocus its efforts on delivering excellence in patient care and building the NHS of the future.”
But Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It is disappointing that the Future Forum appears not to have accepted the view of thousands of our members, who are calling for a mandatory requirement for nurses to sit on the board of every commissioning consortia.
“Nurses follow the patient throughout their care and have a unique range of skills and experience.
“The government should enshrine this requirement in legislation when it responds tomorrow as the reality on the ground is that new commissioning consortia are currently being established at pace without nursing representation.”
The government is due to publish its initial response to forum’s report tomorrow.
The Future Forum’s main summary recommendations are:
The enduring values of the NHS and the rights of patients and citizens as set out in the NHS Constitution are universally supported and should be protected and promoted at all times. The Bill should be amended to place a new duty on the NHS Commissioning Board and commissioning consortia to actively promote the NHS Constitution. In addition, Monitor, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS Commissioning Board and commissioning consortia should all set out how they are meeting their duty to have regard to the NHS Constitution in their annual reports.
• The NHS should be freed from day‐to‐day political interference but the Secretary of State must remain ultimately accountable for the National Health Service. The Bill should be amended to make this clear.
• Patients and carers want to be equal partners with healthcare professionals in discussions and decisions about their health and care. Citizens want their involvement in decisions about the design of their local health services to be genuine, authentic and meaningful. There can be no place for tokenism or paternalism. The declaration of ‘no decision about me, without me’ must become a reality, supported by stronger and clearer duties of involvement written into the Bill focused on the principles of shared decision‐making.
• Because the NHS ‘belongs to the people’ there must be transparency about how public money is spent and how and why decisions are made. The Bill should require commissioning consortia to have a governing body that meets in public with effective independent representation to protect against conflicts of interest. Members of the governing body should abide by the Nolan principles of public life. All commissioners and significant providers of NHS‐funded services, including NHS Foundation Trusts, should be required, as a minimum, to publish board papers and minutes and hold their board meetings in public. Foundation Trust governors must be given appropriate training and support to oversee their Trust’s performance – until governors have the necessary skills and capability to take on this role effectively, Monitor’s compliance role should continue.
• GPs, specialist doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and all other health and care professionals state that there must be effective multi‐professional involvement in the design and commissioning of services working in partnership with managers. Arrangements for multi‐professional involvement in the design and commissioning of services are needed at every level of the system. The Bill should require commissioning consortia to obtain all relevant multi‐professional advice to inform commissioning decisions and the authorisation and annual assessment process should be used to assure this. In support of this, there should be a strong role for clinical and professional networks in the new system and multi‐speciality clinical senates should be established to provide strategic advice to local commissioning consortia, health and wellbeing boards and the NHS Commissioning Board.
• Managers have a critical role to play in working with and supporting clinicians and clinical leaders. Experienced managers must be retained in order to ensure a smooth transition and support clinical leaders in tackling the financial challenges facing the NHS.
• There should be a comprehensive system of commissioning consortia but they should only take on their full range of responsibilities when they can demonstrate that they have the right skills, capacity and capability to do so. The assessment of the skills, capacity and capability of commissioning consortia must be placed at the heart of authorisation and annual assessment process. Where commissioning consortia are not ready, the NHS Commissioning Board should commission on their behalf but provide all necessary support to enable the transfer of power to take place as soon as possible.
• Patients want to have real choice and control over their care that extends well beyond just choice of provider. Building on the NHS Constitution, the Secretary of State should, following full public consultation, give a ‘choice mandate’ to the NHS Commissioning Board setting out the parameters for choice and competition in all parts of the service. A Citizens Panel, as part of Healthwatch England, should report to Parliament on how well the mandate has been implemented and further work should be done to give citizens a new ‘Right to Challenge’ poor quality services and lack of choice.
• Competition should be used as a tool for supporting choice, promoting integration and improving quality and must never be pursued as an end in itself. Monitor’s role in relation to competition should be significantly diluted in the Bill. Its primary duty to ‘promote’ competition should be removed and the Bill should be amended to require Monitor to support choice, collaboration and integration.
• Private providers should not be allowed to ‘cherry pick’ patients and the Government should not seek to increase the role of the private sector as an end in itself. Additional safeguards should be brought forward.
• The duties placed on the Secretary of State, the NHS Commissioning Board and commissioning consortia to reduce health inequalities are welcome. These now need to be translated into practical action. The Mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board, the outcomes frameworks for the NHS, public health and social care, commissioning plans and other system levers and incentives must all be used to help reduce health inequalities and improve the health of the most vulnerable.
• Local government and NHS staff see huge potential in health and wellbeing boards becoming the generators of health and social care integration and in ensuring the needs of local populations and vulnerable people are met. The legislation should strengthen the role and influence of health and wellbeing boards in this respect, giving them stronger powers to require commissioners of both local NHS and social care services to account if their commissioning plans are not in line with the joint health and wellbeing strategy.
• Better integration of commissioning across health and social care should be the ambition for all local areas. To support the system to make progress towards this, the boundaries of local commissioning consortia should not normally cross those of local authorities, with any departure needing to be clearly justified. The Government and the NHS Commissioning Board should enable a set of joint commissioning demonstration sites between health, social care and public health and evaluate their effectiveness.
• Most NHS staff are unfamiliar with the Government’s proposed changes to the education and training of the healthcare workforce. Those who are aware feel that much more time is needed to work through the detail. The ultimate aim should be to have a multi‐disciplinary and inter‐professional system driven by employers. The roles of the postgraduate medical deaneries must be preserved and an interim home within the NHS found urgently. The professional development of all staff providing NHS funded services is critical to the delivery of safe, high quality care but is not being taken seriously enough. The National Quality Board should urgently examine how the situation can be improved and the constitutional pledge to ‘provide all staff with personal development, access to appropriate training for their jobs and line management support to succeed’ be honoured.
• Improving the public’s health is everyone’s business but should be supported by independent, expert public health advice at every level of the system. In order to ensure a coherent system‐wide approach to improving and protecting the public’s health, all local authorities, health and social care bodies (including NHS funded providers) must cooperate. At a national level, to ensure the provision of independent scientific advice to the public and the Government is not compromised we advise against establishing Public Health England fully within the Department of Health.
• Clinical leaders, managers and all those who care about the success of the NHS agree that quality, safety and meeting the financial challenge must take primacy and the pace of transition should reflect this. To ensure focused leadership for quality, safety and the financial challenge, the NHS Commissioning Board should be established as soon as possible.