Strategic clinical networks - a new way forward

The NHSCB have published plans to create a potentially complex web of clinical networks and senates with the aim of improving care and redesigning services.

Much of the detail is yet to be released but the NHSCB document 'The way forward: strategic clinical networks' and its accompanying list of FAQs provides some detail about the future of the networks.

It argues existing clinical networks have had significant successes in improving care and reducing variation and that this has been achieved by bringing commissioners and providers together and by ensuring advice is available to decision-makers.

The document goes on to announce that 'strategic' clinical networks are to be hosted in the 12 NHSCB geographical areas. They are to be established during 2013 to tackle areas of care where major change is required and where a 'whole system' approach is needed.

The first strategic networks are to be established in the areas of cancer cardiovascular disease maternity and paediatrics mental health dementia and neurological conditions.

The strategic clinical networks will not be statutory bodies and will not be directly involved in commissioning which is to remain the responsibility of the CCGs and the NHSCB itself. They are scheduled to run for five years and are to be given sets of aims they are expected to achieve.

Strategic networks are to work closely with local clinical senates providing evidence-based advice enabling commissioners to put patient needs above those of organisations or professions particularly in relation to service redesign and reconfiguration.

Detailed plans for the clinical senates are to be revealed in a separate publication.

The strategic networks will have support organisations provided by the NHSCB and are to be led by a part-time clinical director and an overall network director.  A 'single operating model' is being developed with the aim of minimising unwarranted variations between networks.

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