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Background of Clinical Senates

What We Do and What We Are Here For

Clinical Senates came about when the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was making its way through parliament. The NHS Future Forum (which listened to thousands of members of the public, patients and service users, their carers, health and social care professionals and managers in a variety of settings up and down the country) found that there was universal support for multi-professional clinical leadership in the NHS and recommended the creation of Clinical Senates. Their remit was to provide strategic, independent advice and leadership support to the commissioning and provision of healthcare designed to best meet the needs of patients.

Since 1st April 2013, twelve Clinical Senates have been established across England, broadly based around major patient flows into specialist centres.

There are relatively few specialist centres. Conditions treated in these specialist centres range from long-term conditions, such as renal (kidney services), mental health care in secure settings and neonatal services, to rarer conditions such as uncommon cancers, burn care, medical genetics, specialised services for children and cardiac surgery. They are commissioned nationally through 10 of NHS England’s 27 area teams. They account for around £11.8 billion of annual spending, or around 10 per cent of the overall NHS budget.

The footprint of each area maps into Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Local Authority boundaries. There is one Clinical Senate for each geographical area.

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The Wessex Clinical Senate is a non-statutory, advisory body providing independant clinical advice covering the Wessex Area (Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight) and hosted by the Wessex Local Area Team of NHS England.

When we came to set up the Clinical Senate in Wessex, we decided that we needed a patient voice on the Clinical Senate so the Wessex Clinical Senate brings together multi professional clinical leaders with other public sector and patient leaders. The members work collaboratively and as an arm’s length body will advise, and where necessary challenge, all parts of the healthcare system to drive improvement.

The Clinical Senate Council will harness this expertise working with the strategic clinical networks and wider Senate Assembly, using their extensive knowledge of the local healthcare system to assist commissioners make the best decisions about healthcare for the Wessex population, to put outcomes and quality at the heart of the commissioning system, increase efficiency and promote the needs of patients above the needs of organisations or profession.

There are a number of features that distinguish the Wessex Clinical Senate from other bodies in the new health system, namely that it:

  • Will not focus on a specific condition rather taking a broader, more strategic view on the totality of healthcare in a care pathway and across a geographical area.
  • Has a membership with skills in service delivery, public health, health education, workforce planning, implementation science, patient and public engagement so they can reflect on the demographic, technological, sustainability agendas as well as the patient perspective.
  • Has a membership with practical experience of delivering primary, secondary and specialist health care as well as community and mental health services as well as commissioners.
  • Has a member from and is largely coterminous with the Wessex Deanery[1]. This means that many of the senior doctors who are Senate Council members have trained in more than one hospital in Wessex and have a perspective across the health system.
  • Has a member from and is largely coterminous with the Academic Health Science Network[1] who have expertise in implementing new technologies and sciences in the NHS.

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[1] Except for Salisbury which is covered by the South West Clinical Senate