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Field recommends 'flexibility' on hospital tariffs

The Department of Health should permit GP commissioners to negotiate tariff ‘flexibilities' to promote integrated care, the NHS Future Forum has said, in a set of recommendations to influence the 2012/13 NHS Operating Framework.

In a letter to health secretary Andrew Lansley, the Future Forum made a set of interim recommendations ahead of the anticipated publication of 2012/13 NHS Operating Framework next week. The letter, signed by Future Forum chair Professor Steve Field, provides recommendations for three of the Future Forum's current workstreams: integrated care, information and public health.

On integration, the Forum urges the DH Operating Framework to ensure that incentives ‘can be better aligned to promote integrated care'. While the Health and Social Care Bill was amended to remove competition on price, the Forum suggests that tariff ‘flexibilities' could be used to improve care in some circumstances.

Professor Field writes: ‘We would encourage the Department of Health, through the publication of the 2012/13 Operating Framework, to ensure that these incentives can be better aligned to promote integrated care, for example, through continuing to make available the option for local partners to free the use of tariff "flexibilities" which could include varying the tariff for a certain period of time if there are concerns that it may act as a barrier to implementing new models of care which are better for patients, quality and efficiency.'

The letter also calls on the DH to ‘set out publicly' how the partnership between the NHS Commissioning Board and Public Health England will work, and how the bodies can hold each other to account or address concerns with each other's perforamnce. On information, theFuture Forum calls on patients to have better online access to services and their health records, and argues that most GP systems already have the capability to deliver it.

‘Data collection should be embraced as being integral to care, rather than a bureaucratic burden', Professor Field writes. ‘Patients must have better online access to services and to their health and care records, including making use of the Summary Care Record. We would hope to see significant progress on this over the next year.'

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