Bring on the planning detail

by Alex Gild

07 September 2018

We know the headline priorities that the 10-year plan aims to address, but we need to move quickly to the detail.

There’s a bit of a planning hiatus at the moment. The NHS needs to know soon how the announced five-year revenue uplift will be allocated and managed, beyond addressing the headline priorities such as mental health, cancer and improving provider financial sustainability.

We also need details about the other critical enablers to the NHS’s improvement journey. These include: social care funding; health education funding and incentives to address workforce gaps; and addressing capital needs, without which a vision for health and care integration and transformation is unlikely to be delivered.

The current focus is on the development of a 10-year plan underpinned by the five-year settlement set out in June. But we need to move quickly to the detail of what we need to deliver – with specifics on funding flows, integration and workforce – and how we can plan to make that happen. The first year of that 10-year period will be 2019/20 and we need to head off in the right direction with a good understanding of what we are trying to achieve over the long-term and how we are going to do it.

We have been told that the tariff engagement document, which we might normally have expected before the summer, will now be published alongside the 10-year plan – expected later this year.

This does make sense, as the tariff remains fundamental in most areas to how money will move around the system in the coming years – even though the long-term goal is to move more to capitation-style payment models.

But we can’t afford too many delays to the operational planning timetable if we are going to make the most of the opportunity – afforded by the long-term settlement and 10-year plan – to transform services for the benefit of patients. As a finance community, we also need to take full advantage of the promised opportunity to influence the development of this all-important 10-year plan – ensuring it is both ambitious and achievable.

Turning my attention to our finance community, it is worth saying that we are immeasurably lucky to have the HFMA. It has a rich history of providing support to the NHS finance function and we continue to see a bright and relevant future.

This continuing relevance can be seen in the eyes of the grass roots of our vibrant branch membership, in our committee networks, and in our high-quality policy and technical output. But it is also evident in our excellent healthcare business and finance qualification offer, our partnerships and in the high-calibre trustee candidates coming forward to support the work of the HFMA board.

The HFMA continues to provide the glue that holds together finance networks against recent system fragmentation. It is the voice and professional family for thousands of NHS finance staff.

As president for this year, it is a privilege to see the HFMA continue to move from strength to strength, as it helps finance staff and their wider teams shape for the future. This is a future where finance professionals, working alongside clinicians and other professionals, deliver increasing value to the NHS. That value will be seen in clinical services working better together across systems. It will be seen in new technologies being adopted across the service and in further improvements in productivity. And it will be seen in the ultimate measure – better outcomes and better care for patients.