Deciding where to allocate resources is a critical process for the NHS, all the more so in today’s harsh financial climate when it is under greater pressure than ever to secure high-quality, value-for-money health services.
The Star (socio-technical allocation of resources) programme has devised a new approach to priority setting that combines value for money analysis with stakeholder engagement. It helps commissioners to extract increased value by showing them how to deploy their resources more effectively
To ensure that these decisions are fair and strategic, they need to be made in ways that are evidence based, transparent and systematic. Indeed, the NHS is under legal obligations to involve patients, public and partner organisations in all such decisions that affect them.
Identifying priorities, and re-allocating resources to break free from outdated patterns of provision, are politically sensitive and complex processes. Making sure that the people affected understand and support the decisions is a challenge – all the more so in England now that responsibility for commissioning is passing to newly formed organisations, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
To help them, CCGs need a robust and inclusive decision-making process. A team from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and funded by the Health Foundation, has developed and tested the Star approach, which uses an easily understood methodology and techniques that can be readily adopted.
The LSE team worked first with NHS Isle of Wight on its commissioning strategy for 2008 onwards, successfully helping it to target additional resources for maximum health gain. It then built on and complemented this work in 2009 in a project with NHS Sheffield, increasing health benefit by reshaping services without extra spending.
Star can therefore be adapted to a wide range of circumstances. A free toolkit is now available for organisations wanting to use the Star approach in their own commissioning and planning processes