Viewpoint - Practice-based examples of integrated services are key

NHS Future Forum chairman Professor Steve Field writes about the body's new projects and objectives.

Professor Field: evidence-based insight will improve NHS care delivery (Photograph: P Hill)

The second phase of the NHS Future Forum has begun with energy and optimism and a real sense of purpose. The membership has been refreshed and enhanced and we are beginning to listen to and engage with people across the NHS and beyond on four new areas of work.

Ultimately, our work will inform and help shape future health policy as it is developed.

As a multidisciplinary group we are aiming to offer evidence-based insight that will enable the best decisions to be made about how we deliver NHS care in the future.

How are we going to do this? First, from experience, we know we work best by using a series of engagements, listening opportunities and bespoke meetings to give our members the chance to share thoughts and start discussions in an open, constructive and non-adversarial way.

Second, the work of the forum during the listening exercise did influence the development of policy and legislation. This gave us a mandate to continue this work with significant pieces of policy that are in development and that we now have a chance to shape at an early stage.

Three of our four workstreams are focused on policy development: of the NHS's role in public health, education and training, and information.

Our fourth workstream, integration, is looking at how we can take advantage of the health and social care modernisation programme to ensure services are integrated better around patients' needs.

Vast and complex problem
So far, I've had the most push-back on the integration workstream from people who question if the forum can make a difference with this vast and complex problem.

I know the NHS offers, in some areas, a fragmented service. This is tough on patients and hard work for staff. It is clear that we need to organise services around the needs of the patient, no matter how many different providers are involved.

This is understood, so I will encourage the integration workstream to go further than simply identifying the problem. We will be looking at practice-based examples of integrated services that support and enable better outcomes, and then identifying who needs to do what next to make this happen.

I hope we will be able to capture real evidence of incentives that work and innovation that can be scaled up to maximise its positive benefits.

This is all within our grasp. The forum has been given a unique part to play in the modernisation of the NHS and I am confident our influence, at this time, will be significant.

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