National service frameworks (NSF)

National service frameworks

National service frameworks (NSFs) were ten-year programmes for improving specific areas of health and social care. They set measurable goals within set time frames. They were only applicable to the NHS in England.

National service frameworks:

  • set national standards and identified key interventions for a defined service or care group
  • put in place strategies to support implementation
  • established ways to ensure progress within an agreed time scale
  • formed one of a range of measures to raise quality and decrease variations in service.

The first national service framework was published in September 1999 and set out quality standards for mental health services. Other NSFs covered coronary heart disease care, diabetes services and care services for older people.

The role of national service frameworks was lost in the reform of the NHS after 2010 and the establishment of NHS England.

National service framework for long-term conditions

The National Service Framework for Long-term Conditions, which included multiple sclerosis, was published in March 2005. This was primarily aimed at services for adults with long-term neurological conditions, such as MS, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries, although it was relevant to people with other long-term conditions. The aims of this NSF were to transform the way health and social care services supported people with these long-term neurological conditions and to promote quality of life and independence.

The document contained 11 specific quality standards to be delivered over ten years with person-centred care underpinning all of the requirements. Some of the other quality standards covered prompt diagnosis and treatment, specialist rehabilitation and palliative care.

The Department of Health had promised a mid-term review of the NSF in 2010, but the change in government meant this did not happen.

Neurological Commissioning Support, an organisation set up by neurological charities to support commissioners in implementing the NSF which has since closed, published 'Halfway through – are we halfway there?', a report that looked at the implementation of the quality requirements. Whilst the report found that the deadline for implementing the quality standards probably would not be met, it was optimistic that the targets were still achievable. However a services for neurological conditions report (PDF, 650KB) by the National Audit Office in December 2011 highlighted the lack of provision for monitoring implementation of the recommendations in the NSF for long-term conditions.

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