Supporting Clinical Networks
NHS Diabetes and Kidney Care is working with colleagues in NHS Improvement,
National Cancer Action team and End of Life Care Team to look at future support
needs for clinical networks.
This paper has been drafted by NHS Improvement colleagues and is the starting
point for thinking about future support during and beyond transition to the new NHS.
The aim of sharing this paper with you is to give you the opportunity to inform the
development of this national support. The timescale is tight for responding – by 16th
If you are linked into local vascular networks, you might already have sight of this
The principles defining and driving clinical networks, and the benefits they bring to services, are
well understood.
Contributing to their success is an effective system to support their establishment, operation and
development. National support for networks can guide and underpin their day-to-day functioning
as well as facilitate the ‘network of networks’, enabling peer support, learning and cooperation.
Networks support needs can be argued to fall under 6 domains based on their main roles and
• Strategic planning and direction
• Communication and cooperation
• Sharing good practice
• Knowledge-building and troubleshooting for areas beyond local expertise
• Providing national perspective and direct support
• Training and support for network staff
This framework is expanded further below.
1) Strategic planning and direction
Emerging networks will benefit from guidance and assistance from established national support
structures, and existing networks will need to review their operation in light of the changes to the
Support needed
Designing and establishing a clinical network
including identifying constituents, leadership,
role and remit.
Strategic planning frameworks and supporting
documents (eg job descriptions, constitutions
Linking to other local networks and relevant
structures and organisations.
Introductions and facilitated workshops with
other network leads
Review and ‘fitness for purpose’ assessment
Audit systems and frameworks.
2) Communication and cooperation
Networks benefit from a managed system to channel relevant and/or interesting information. This
provides links to the broader world of service improvement and development, as well as
promoting the ‘network of networks’ essential for peer support and mutual learning.
Support needed
Promotion of awareness
developments in clinical,
improvement arenas.
of relevant
policy and
Regular facilitated peer meetings of network
clinical and managerial leads
Electronic dissemination of information
through network specific web pages and email
Peer support and cooperation, bring networks
together for mutual support and learning.
Linking networks, and their constituent
services, with national bodies and policy
representatives (eg DH, NCB)
Web of contacts with relevant national bodies,
facilitating input of national clinical and policy
3) Sharing good practice
Networks are a crucial vehicle for spreading learning on good practice and improvement,
speeding up the adoption of innovation and more efficient approaches to care. An essential
support role is to ‘oil the wheels’ of networks learning from each other and from elsewhere
Support needed
Case studies of effective service improvement
Database of improvement case studies
Collated and analysed learning showing
underpinning principles and ‘top tips’
Effective community of networks in regular
contact and cooperating Improvement system
Easily accessed and up-to-date information
Knowledgeable and expert network support
Forums for inter-network discussion and
4) Knowledge-building and troubleshooting for areas beyond local expertise
National support will need to undertake investigations and/or projects to address questions
raised by networks that are not soluble at network level alone.
Support needed
Integration of emerging areas of practice, new
clinical or policy initiatives and/or innovations
into local services
Pilot and prototype service improvement
projects to define and describe effective
Work with wide variety of services to ensure
findings applicable in all settings and develop
adaptability criteria
Produce learning resources and case studies
highlighting critical success factors
Distil and publish useful resources and
Share service-developed tools and materials
to increase speed of adoption and
5) Providing national perspective and direct support
Network activities to support commissioning and/or service improvement, such as service
reviews and pathway redesigns, improvement events and initiatives with local services, benefit
from input of national perspective and collected learning from elsewhere in the country.
Support needed
Policy and/or clinical evidence perspective on
issues under development at local level
Leadership and/or membership of review
teams investigating specific areas of service
reconfiguration, providing expert advice and
drawing on exemplars from elsewhere
Independent overview of matters under local
discussion, including ‘honest broker’ role of
intra-network processes
Arbitration and/or chairing of contentious
issues requiring external perspective and
Direct facilitation and management of service
improvement work with clinical teams in
partnership with, or on behalf of, network
support teams
Work with clinical teams to bring about
demonstrable, measures improvements in
service outcomes, benefiting local services
and providing exemplar learning for other
6) Training and support for network staff
Support needed
Training and ongoing development for
network leaders and staff on a wide variety of
improvement skills, tools and approaches
Development of specialist skills benefitting
Development and support of clinical leaders
Enhancing network functions in key areas
such as marketing and communications
High-quality service improvement training
courses through group sessions, electronic
media and practical resources.
Bespoke training on areas of particular
importance to networks out with normal
network capability
Training, mentoring and establishing peer
support systems for new and existing clinical
leaders at service, network, regional and
national level

Supporting Clinical Networks DRAFT