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NHS plans new improvement body to drive efficiency

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The NHS Commissioning Board is preparing to launch a new organisation to promote and spread innovation in a bid to orchestrate a “system-wide response” to make services sustainable.

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

In an exclusive interview with LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal, Jim Easton, the board’s director of improvement and efficiency, said a new organisation would be unveiled in the autumn and begin full operations next April.

The as-yet-unnamed body will be funded by the commissioning board. The board will also set its priorities following dialogue with “customers” such as local commissioners and provider organisations.

Mr Easton said: “The board is trying to set this up as a system resource that responds to the needs of players in the system. We’re trying to act as stewards for that.

“We’ve come from a period where everyone was stressing their independence, getting on and developing by themselves [rather than] working together to make things happen.

“[But] I don’t think anybody can credibly think that every healthcare system can work through all the answers for the challenges they face by themselves, from scratch.”

However, he insisted: “Our mindset is not to create a top-down change machine, but to support change at scale across the country.”

Mr Easton said the scale of the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention challenge facing the NHS for the next 10 years meant a “system-wide response” was needed. The new improvement body will be part of the commissioning board’s offer to NHS organisations for how the problem could be managed.

“QIPP is everything”, he said, stressing the “medium term” need to reconfigure services and cut the reliance on hospitals. “This organisation needs to provide hands-on support for great models of care - well packaged - that you can get access to and deploy quickly to make that a reality.”

He said that the NHS must become better at adopting innovations and bringing in new ideas from other countries.

The new organisation will focus on producing practical tools that can easily be implemented across the NHS, in vein of the NHS Institute’s Productive Series, which offers advice on reorganisation within hospitals.

The body will also help NHS bodies to access existing partnerships such as NHS Quest, focused on quality and safety, or the Advancing Quality Alliance in the north-west.

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