Welcome to the third edition in our series of reports that examine the state of the NHS provider sector. Our latest assessment sets out to provide a valuable commentary on how the community services provider sector is performing, the challenges that community service providers are facing, and the solutions that will enable success as we head towards a longer term funding settlement.
This is a crucial area of care for the NHS as it covers a diverse range of services delivered in the community that help keep people well throughout their lifetime. As they work closely with primary, social and acute care, community services can be considered as the glue that holds the wider health and care system together.
Community services need to be at the heart of local health and care provision in all systems, but for too long they have been marginalised and not given enough priority at national and local level. That needs to change and our report makes the case for why community services need to be centre stage as we move towards more integrated health and care systems.
Despite the fact that the NHS has long been committed to expanding and strengthening community services, and the birth of sustainability and transformation partnerships should have provided an ideal opportunity for this, this expansion and strengthening has not happened. Our research has identified seven key barriers that need national attention to make the rhetoric of strengthening and expanding community services a reality.
The report provides a unique combination of our own policy analysis and commentary, published data, and, most importantly, the views of the chairs and chief executives who run community, hospital, mental health, and ambulance services in England. We also interviewed several leaders of community interest companies to ensure their contribution to and perspective on the health and care system is taken into account.
We are grateful to the trust chairs and chief executives, and community interest company leaders, who took the time to complete the survey and participate in interviews. The report would not be possible without these contributions, and we hope our report does justice to them.
Chief Executive, NHS Providers
The state of the NHS provider sector
We produce two reports per year in our series, The state of the NHS provider sector. Our winter report provides a comprehensive overview of the key challenges and opportunities facing hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services across the provider sector.
Our spring report examines a specific part of the provider sector in more detail. Last year we reported on the challenges faced by mental health trusts, and the progress that has been achieved. This time we are focusing on the community services sector.
The centrepiece of each report is a survey of trust chairs and chief executives. This presents an opportunity to assess in detail the concerns and recommendations of trust leaders as they endeavour to protect and enhance standards of care for patients and service users at a time of rising demand, severe financial pressures and workforce constraints.
A stronger voice for NHS community services
NHS Providers has joined forces with the NHS Confederation to establish the Community Network. The network will make the case for community services to play a leading role in the development of integrated systems, and for sufficient funding and investment to be made available to support ambitions to strengthen community services. The network will also have a strong emphasis on promoting the link between community services and the rest of the health and care system, including primary care and social care services.