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Following calls from the service, the NHS planning framework is changing significantly for 2017/18 – starting and finishing earlier and covering a longer period.
Joint working at national level is demonstrated in the single overview document, issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement, which sets out the context and high level requirements. This is accompanied by joint technical guidance for commissioners and providers, alongside a range of technical annexes setting out the details on a range of areas including the Commissioning for Quality and Innovation payment (CQUIN), dispute resolution and specialised commissioning.
NHS finance teams have got used to waiting for their early Christmas present in the form of the planning guidance, which invariably arrived on the last working day before the break. This year’s guidance, issued in late September, brings forward the usual process by three months, aiming to help improve planning, ensure contracts and budgets are in place before the beginning of the financial year, and help relieve the pressure on finance teams who are also involved in producing the annual accounts.
Several previous attempts have been made to extend the length of time covered by the plan with varying levels of success. The crucial difference for 2017/18 is the move to agreeing two year contracts between providers and commissioners, accompanied by a two-year national tariff. Greater certainty regarding the level of price uplifts and efficiency requirements will help organisations to plan more effectively beyond the next financial year.