17 Dec 2019

Dietitians make a difference to patients’ lives – their health and quality of life. Our services are also cost effective. Dietitians know this but do the people who are responsible for making decisions about health services in your area know? In the current health system it’s now more important than ever to engage locally with key decision makers.

What is a Clinical Senate?

There are 12 Clinical Senates in England. Clinical Senates support commissioners to make the best decisions about healthcare for the populations they represent. They were created as part of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

They provide independent, clinical leadership and credibility and their main roles are to take a strategic overview of all healthcare in a region and advise commissioning bodies such as the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) on:

  • Potential areas for improving outcomes and value
  • Care pathways
  • Innovations and good ideas
  • Major service change/development

Clinical Senates may undertake reviews of services or proposed reconfiguration in their areas. The Chair and Manager of the Clinical Senate are also expected to help co-produce an accountability and governance framework for their area.

A Clinical Senate is made up of a core Clinical Senate Council and a wider Assembly. The former is a ‘steering’ group of senior health leaders who oversee the Senate’s business and draw on the views and expertise of the Assembly members. The latter is a wider, giving the Senate access to a broader range of experts, encompassing a wide range of professions.  Each clinical senate also has a small support team.

Both groups include patient and public representatives. They are required to be “multi-professional”, with representatives from across the health and care system, but the exact makeup of each is determined locally. Everyone is expected to separate their own clinical work from their role on the Senate.

Why do dietitians need to influence Clinical Senates?

They influence and advise CCGs on service developments and care pathways and so it is important that they are aware of the role and valuable contribution of dietitians. They will have input into reviews of service changes in their area and represent a perhaps unique opportunity to meet with and influence a really broad range of leaders and experts in your area.

What can I do?

  • Find out if there is a dietitian or AHP representative on the Council or Assembly in your Clinical Senate. You can find all the Senates, and links to their websites on the NHS England website.
  • If there is a dietitian or an AHP on the Council or Assembly make contact with them and share your ideas about services.
  • If there is not a dietitian or AHP on the Council or Assembly, contact the Senate Manager (Details here) and make the case for an AHP on the Assembly – put yourself forward or encourage a colleague to do so.
  • Familiarise yourself with the national and local healthcare outcomes and strategies. You will need to know these when developing relationships with Senate Assembly members.
  • Join forces with other dietitians, AHPs, patient groups when you have a shared agenda because this will allow you to have a louder voice together.