The IT and business intelligence requirements for clinical commissioning groups are among the commissioning support functions best done “at scale”, according to a draft report from the Department of Health.
'Towards Service Excellence', which has been leaked to the Health Service Journal (subscription needed), was circulated to cluster primary care trust leaders late last week.
It says: “There is evidence to indicate that initially a national approach might enable the most effective delivery of each of these services.”
The document suggests a total of four areas that would benefit from this approach: business intelligence - or collecting and analysing data; 'major clinical procurement'; back office functions such as IT, estates management, human resources and finance; and communications services.
HSJ reports that officials are considering a range of options for how these services could be structured in the future.
These are: a single nationally-managed service, delivered locally; a nationally-coordinated network, with teams in various locations providing different specialist elements, and the potential for these elements to become separate organisations later; a hub approach, with the potential to create several organisations later; and a national specification and price with a range of approved suppliers.
Elsewhere the guidance appears to recommend strategic health authority-sized bodies to provide some parts of NHS business intelligence.
It says: “Evidence from South Central, West Midlands and East Midlands suggests aspects of business intelligence would be delivered most effectively by operations that cover an average population of around five million.
"If these sized units were replicated nationally this implies that these aspects of business intelligence could be provided from approximately 10 units.”
Guidance on the future arrangements for information services supplied to the clinical commissioning groups has been sought for some time.
In May, Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, director of GP commissioning for NHS East of England and primary care lead for the King’s Fund, told the Primary Health Info conference that GP consortia should follow US physician-led organisations which designed their own information systems.
Central commissioning support does not, however, mean the re-creation of primary care trusts. According to HSJ, the document affirms the ‘market’ model promoted by the coalition government.
“The NHS sector, which provides the majority of commissioning support now, needs to make the transition from statutory function to free standing enterprise,” it says.
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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