The South London Mental Health Partnership - a collaboration to promote the delivery of more sustainable health care.

David McLaughlan's picture

Yesterday, the Health Service Journal published an article about the formation of a new partnership across three South London mental health Trusts.

It is the first partnership of its kind in London and is comprised of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, South West London and St .George’s Mental Health NHS as well as my own trust, South London and Maudlsey NHS Foundation Trust.

The partnership has been described it as a new “group model” to cut costs and is in line with the governments Five Year Forward View (FYFV) which has asked the NHS to work closer together to improve quality and become more efficient. Locally, this is taking place through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) to promote greater joined up working between local Trusts.

It is hoped that by coming together in this way, innovations and best practice can be shared to promote more sustainable mental health services whilst simultaneously improving the lives of people who live with mental illness.

The South London Mental Health Partnership means that services which may have not been viable in isolation can thrive in partnership. As example where this process is already in progess is forensic services, where there has been a movement towards joint commissioning across the whole of South London since 2015 as one of four national pilots approved by NHS England. The success of these partnerships may lay the foundation for similar initiatives, such as specialist CAMHs services and complex in-patient services.

Another key feature of the partnership appears to be the sharing of support services, which could include:

“ 1. Shared legal, advisory and back office services for example:

  •  Potential costs savings of around £180,000 to be made if all three organisations work to share legal services as opposed to commissioning these services alone
  •  Freedom to Speak Guardian is a statutory service which could be shared o Creating a payroll / procurement super hub to ensure best value for NHS money

2. Exploring common approaches to making the best use of estates for example:

  • Sharing office or clinical space ensuring maximum coverage of services across shared boundaries, improving accessibility and potentially reducing patient travel times
  • Achieving greater economies of scales through shared maintenance and other contracts

3. More effective workforce planning across south London for example:

  • Creating an ‘employee passport’ scheme in 2017/18 which will allow staff working in the three organisations to move more flexibly across the Trusts without being tied up in red tape or having to repeat ‘new starter’ training
  •  Creating a south London graduate and apprenticeship scheme in 2017/18 which will allow the pool of new young talent to be recruited and trained in vital mental health services
  • Human Resources working together, using best practice from each organisation and applying these to recruiting, training and retaining the best staff to deliver excellent patient care.”

Whilst the partnership offers greater collaboration between the trusts, the CEOs have made it clear that this is not a merger and that each organisations individual structure and governance arrangements will remain in place.

I will provide updates as I learn more about the success of the partnership.

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