Pcts Will Need To Respond Quickly - Risk Missing Significant

Thursday, 15 January 2009

New guidance on the future of provider services will transform the future configuration of community health services - but PCTs that respond too slowly will miss the opportunity to realise potentially significant opportunities, according to experts from Finnamore Management Consultants.

A report from the Department of Health sets tight deadlines for PCTs across England to ensure their provider arms are "business ready" by April 2009 and have agreed their future organisational form by the end of the year.

But with limited time to plan and deliver the scale of change expected of them, that may leave some decision-makers tempted to work on flawed assumptions simply in order to hit the deadlines.

Instead, experts from healthcare specialist Finnamore warn that PCTs should take the opportunity to develop governance models and service strategies that make the new organisations "fit for purpose" for the long term.

Finnamore's Paul Gray welcomed the fact that the guidance made clear that PCTs need to go through a process to decide what is right for them.

But he added: "Rather than jumping headlong into the process, and risk making bad long-term decisions for relatively small short-term gains, PCTs should start by laying the foundations that ensure sound strategic choices are made and opportunities for value creation are seized."

By setting out each of the main models that PCTs can follow to divest their provider arms, and coupling that with a deadline to be "business ready" by April, Mr Gray said the guidance from the Department of Health provided PCTs with "a good start".

With careful planning, it should allow them time to clarify the future role and strategy for the provider services arm - before deciding on the most appropriate organisational form, he added.

But he pointed to the importance of not "putting the cart before the horse", and deciding on organisational form before the purpose, vision and strategy for the new organisation were developed and owned locally.

He said: "Organisations that do fully define their purpose, vision and strategy before deciding on organisational form will benefit in the long run. What might seem to be an attractive decision in a few months' time could be an expensive and time-consuming mistake to correct in the years ahead.

"Not surprisingly, there really is no one-size-fits-all solution, nor even a choice between three straightforward options, so every PCT needs to go through the full process from the very beginning.

"Similarly, demonstrating that the provider arm is business ready by April, then preparing plans for approval by October, should be achievable by many PCTs.  What we must not allow, however, is for costly mistakes to be made simply to hit those deadlines."

According to Mr Gray, the factors which determine how successful such dramatic changes are going to be are so numerous and varied that the solution is bound to be slightly different for each and every PCT in the land.

But the consequences of their decisions will ultimately govern whether or not community services can be effectively delivered.

"This document gives good, solid guidance on a process which PCTs need to go through and sets what are for most realistic deadlines to meet.  To that extent, it is welcomed.

"However, in simplifying some of the options available and imposing a timeframe, there is a risk that some PCTs will rush into long-term decisions they don't fully understand.

"Unfortunately, the only answer is to start by asking fundamental questions about what services are needed and how best to provide them. These may sound simple, but the unpalatable truth to some decision-makers is that it actually takes a great deal of time, effort and skill to get the answers right.

"Only by doing so, however, can a PCT then start looking at the models open to it, and which might be best suited and adapted to their needs."

 - Ends -


Notes to editors:


Finnamore Management Consultants was established in 1991 and has built an extensive client portfolio of healthcare organisations across the UK, undertaking a wide range of consultancy assignments.

The work of Finnamore Management Consultants work encompasses all management issues encountered in health and social care sectors both public and private, from perennial healthcare issues to pioneering new initiatives and developments.