Provider collaboratives: working together at scale

Provider collaboratives are set to become a universal feature of the new health and care system in England, with all NHS trusts providing acute and mental health services required to be part of a provider collaborative from July 2022.

The context

Provider collaboratives are a key component of system working and Integrated Care System (ICS) delivery. Working across a range of programmes, they are one of the enablers of the ICS meeting the triple aim of better health for everyone, better care for all patients, and the efficient use of NHS resources, both within the local and wider system.

Provider collaboratives will vary to fit the local context

The governance and structure of these collaboratives will vary significantly across the country - in part, due to the local provider context, existing relationships and local population needs. This flexible approach to these arrangements is supported by NHS England guidance which is focused on “the desired outcomes, rather than the underpinning governance structure”.

So, while provider collaborative development is very individual and local, there are some important issues to consider when forming a collaborative – the honeymoon can fade quickly as you get down to the heavy lifting.

The approach is heavily relational

We have learnt from our experiences of the need for clarity of purpose, transparency, and the importance of leadership with a collaborative mindset and mutual trust and respect. But the development of provider collaboratives is heavily relational – time taken to develop relationships is time well spent.

We highlight six key focus areas to guide you through the process of forming a collaborative:

  • Choose your partners carefully

Who should you partner with? You need aligned priorities and objectives to make the collaborative a success

  • Provider representatives

How do you decide who should lead the provider collaborative?

  • Governance

Be clear and transparent on your governance model. What do you need to think about when deciding on your governance structure? Could there be different levels of membership, voting rights etc?

  • Financial risk and opportunity

How do you manage the risk and/or gain of a collaborative? Do all providers need to be part of this mechanism?

  • Clinical model

How will the collaborative scope and agree a new model identifying how care will be delivered?

  • Legal issues

How can collaborative members share data? Does there need to be a new data sharing agreement? How will intellectual property rights generated by the collaborative be treated? What information can be shared that does not fall foul of competition law?

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