Planning guidance moves NHS towards two-year planning and contracting approach

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Guidance to support local health and care systems plan for the years ahead has for the first time prescribed a planning and contacting approach that will cover two financial years. 

Issued three months earlier than usual, NHS England and NHS Improvement's planning guidance will be underpinned by a two-year tariff and two-year standard contract.

The 23-page document, published on Thursday (22 September), reflects a 'significantly streamlined' planning and contracting round. It explains how the process has changed to support sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) and the ‘financial reset’ issued in July. 

It also sets out nine 'must do' national priorities and additional measures to help the NHS deliver the Five Year Forward View.

At a glance

The headlines include:

  • sustainability and transformation plans (STP) will form the basis of operational and contracting plans 
  • each STP will have a financial control total
  • changes to the commissioning for quality and innovation (CQUIN) scheme and national indicators
  • a single NHS England and NHS Improvement oversight process to provide a unified interface with local organisations to ensure effective alignment of CCG and provider plans
  • new incentives worth more than £100m to help tackle unnecessary delays in discharging patients from hospital
  • incentives to reduce people attending A&E with mental health problems
  • further steps to ensure the sustainability of general practice
  • changes to the dispute resolution process

NHS Confederation members can access a key points guide from the resources library.

Alignment and delivery

Commenting on the guidance, the Confederation's deputy director of policy, Dr Phil McCarvil, said:“The guidance is clear and useful but the proof will be in the delivery and alignment of both organisational and local STPs. Local commissioners and providers are being asked to achieve something that is longer term and wider reaching than ever before."


He added: “We know that STP areas are being asked to move incredibly quickly and will need clarity, guidance and support to help them deliver. This guidance is a move in the right direction to making health and care better and more sustainable. 

"We all need to support local efforts to develop and implement collaborative plans that deliver for their local populations. The national bodies must continue to work together and align regulation and policies which would help organisations to work closer together.”

Find out more

Access the full guide from NHS England's website.

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