Given the current climate, there appears to be an appetite for formal collaboration. This could provide a platform for growing networks.
Providers are interested in receiving more legal support from regulators when extending their network, especially when this involves bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority.
The risk of being seen as anti-competitive means that providers are often encouraged to engage in competitive processes to expand their existing network. But many stakeholders consider competition and collaboration as complementary to each other and that legislation poses no obstacle as long as clear benefits to patients through collaboration can be evidenced.
Workforce issues can be one of the most challenging aspects of scaling-up networked care.
Both the specialty and host providers are legally bound by the requirements of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 (TUPE), which protects the employment rights of transferring staff.
The network provider taking on a service may have to invest in providing additional training and development opportunities to ensure all staff are able to operate the network’s standardised clinical and operational protocols.
Accountability was raised as a concern by regulators. There was consensus around the importance of having clearly agreed and signed SLAs to cover risk and accountability between specialist and host providers.
This was particularly important as most networks were reliant on host organisations for resources such as estates, support services and staff.
- Legislation should not be a barrier to network expansion.
- The implications of TUPE regulations when transferring staff can affect how a network’s workforce expands.
- Competition law should not prevent network expansion where collaborative working between providers has a clear benefit topatients.
- SLAs and contracts between providers can mitigate risks associated with network expansion.