Ah, it’s a new year. Must be time for another fun round of SLA negotiations. For those of you unfamiliar with this annual jamboree, it is the time when those who hold the NHS’s purse strings (commissioners) sit down across the table from those who spend the purse (providers) to draw up a contract which will ultimately decide who ends up holding the deficit.
On a less flippant note, here are my top three pre-match notes to self.
- A realistic activity plan. When agreeing next year’s activity plan, try try try to end up with something which differentiates impartial forecast from wishful thinking. The starting point for any plan must be a cool analytical assessment of the minimum activity likely to be required, not simply how much can be afforded. Glossing over this by agreeing to a plan you don’t believe is not saving you time, it is wasting you time: you’ll only end up having a fight later in the year by which time it will be too late to do anything constructive about it.
- Priniciples & definitions. Accepting your contract will include performance metrics with financial penalties, agree both the principles of these (what is the logic for their application) and their technical definitions (exactly how are they measured and applied). Having a tightly agreed definition helps avoid in year arguments about what performance is and whether or not a penalty applies. Where arguments do arise, having agreed principles in place can help settle them more amicably.
- Clinical involvement. Get clinicians (on both sides) involved as early as possible. Ditto service General Managers or equivalent. This is the best way to make sure your plans and targets are sensible, believed and understood by those with the power to change practice.