Key priorities and health policies

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The organisation of health services in England changed in April 2013. This page outlines the key priorities for each of the key organisations and how they are monitored and published.

List of contents:

Department of Health (DH)

The Department of Health has responsibility for:

The priorities of the DH and its agencies for 2015 to 202 are outlined in their Shared Delivery plan:

  • improving out-of-hospital care
  • creating the safest, highest quality healthcare services
  • maintaining and improving performance against core standards while achieving financial balance
  • improving efficiency and productivity of the health and care system
  • preventing ill health and supporting people to live healthier lives
  • supporting research, innovation and growth
  • enabling people and communities to make decisions about their own health and care
  • building and developing the workforce
  • improving services through the use of digital technology, information and transparency

See a full list of current DH policies here.


There is a description of the NHS in England on NHS Choices here, including links to the structures, principles and constitution.

Understanding The New NHS – An updated guide (June 2014) from NHS England on the structure and function ofthe NHS, taking into account the changes of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. (More about the the Coalition Government.)

See a full list of current NHS policies, news, consultations and statistics here.

The NHS Mandate sets out the DH’s objectives for the NHS and highlights the areas of health and care where the Government expects to see improvements. The NHS Mandate is structured around 5 domains where the government expects the NHS Commissioning Board to make improvements:

  • Domain 1: Preventing people from dying prematurely.
  • Domain 2: Enhancing quality of life for people with long term conditions.
  • Domain 3: Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury.
  • Domain 4: Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care.
  • Domain 5: Treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

Policies for the NHS in England are underpinned by the NHS Constitution which brings together in one place details of what staff, patients and the public can expect from the National Health Service.

Putting patients first: the NHS England business plan for 2013/14–2015/16 (aka operating plan) describes an 11 point NHS scorecard which NHS England will introduce for measuring performance of key priorities. This plan builds on Everyone Counts: Planning for Patients 2013/14, the earlier planning guidance for commissioners which was published in December 2012.

The NHS Outcomes Framework sets out the outcomes and corresponding indicators used to measure improvements in health outcomes. These are based on five domains outlined in the NHS mandate and which are widely used across the NHS.

Indicator data sets are published on the Health & Social Care Information Centre Indicator Portal.

NHS National service frameworks and strategies
NSFs and strategies set clear quality requirements for care across the NHS for a range of conditions – currently (Dec 2013) Cancer, CHD, COPD, Diabetes Quality Standards, Kidney Care, Long term conditions, Mental Health, Older People, and Stroke.

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Recent reports into the work of the NHS include:

Measuring the performance of local health systems – a report for the DofH by Kings Fund (Oct 2015) suggests that the three national Outcomes Frameworks are consolidated into a single framework covering the NHS, public health and adult social care.

Keogh Mortality Review – published July 2013 – a review of the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts found to be outliers on mortality indicators. 

Francis Report – published February 2013 – the enquiry into the deaths at Mid Staffs Hospital. You can follow NHS England responses to the Francis report here. The Health Foundation has summarised the government responses to the Francis enquiry here.

WInterbourne VIew report – published December 2012 – enquiry and government responses into events at a hospital for people with learning disabilities.

NHS England (NHSE)

NHS England (NHSE) came into being in April 2013, prior to which it was known as the NHS Commissioning Board. NHSE oversees the running of the NHS in England, in particular the CCGs, Area teams and Commissioning Support Units.  It has responsibility for commissioning some specialist services including armed forces health services, offender health care, dental health, primary care, specialised services commissioning and public health commissioning.

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Clinical Commissioning Groups

CCGs are groups of general practices which work with their local authority (including public health) , other local services and patient groups to commission local health services. Each CCG went through a process of authorisation prior to taking legal responsibility in April 2013 – authorisation support documents are one of the resources available on the NHSE website resources for CCGs.  Others include an explanation of the 5 domains of the NHS, learning tools, commissioning intelligence and financial support.

Key priorities for CCGs are detailed the CCG Outcomes Indicator Set (formerly known as the Commissioning Outcomes Framework) and provide clear, comparative information for CCGs, Health and Wellbeing Boards and local authorities about the quality of health services and associated health outcomes.

The CCG Outcome Indicator datasets are published on the Health & Social Care Information Centre Indicator Portal.

Public Health England (PHE)

Areas of work of PHE are:

Public health is are measured using the Public Health Outcomes Framework which is collated by Public Health England, and presents data around public health for available indicators at England and local authority levels. Data is presented in the Public Health Outcomes Framework Data Tool which allows different areas to benchmark their activities against other authorities and the England average.

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