Shared planning guidance for NHS trusts and foundation trusts


Updated planning guidance for the NHS for 2016/17 to 2020/21 from England's leading national health and care bodies.

The NHS already has two-year contracts and improvement priorities set for the period 2017/19.  These were based on the NHS Operational Planning and Contracting Guidance 2017-2019 published in September 2016 and reflected in the March 2017 document Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Update: the planning guidance has subsequently been updated and is set out in the Refreshing NHS Plans for 2018/19.

The joint NHS England and NHS Improvement updated plan guidance sets out:

  • how the November 2017 budget announcement of additional NHS revenue funding of £1.6 billion for 2018/19 will be distributed
  • the expectations for commissioners and providers in updating their operational plans for 2018/19 
  • how the priorities outlined will be given effect.

Given that two-year contracts are in place, 2018/19 will be a refresh of plans already prepared.  All providers and commissioners are required to submit a narrative on updates to the plan together with a full suite of operating plan submissions to the deadlines in the published national timetable as set out in Refreshing NHS plans for 2018/19 and also adhere to the contract variation deadlines and processes.

For any queries please contact your NHS Improvement Delivery and Improvement teams.

Update: the refreshed accompanying operating plan submission joint technical guidance documents have now been published.

NHS shared planning guidance


In order to explain the main changes arising from the update to operational plans, all providers will need to submit a narrative document alongside the planning templates.  This narrative should provide an overview and explanation of the changes to the plan for 2018/19. 

Most providers will be preparing such a document for their Boards and so we anticipate that this could also be used for the narrative submission to NHS Improvement.  It is not necessary to provide a revised version of the full two-year operational plan narrative that was produced last year. 

Although there is no template for the narrative element of operational plan updates, the narrative is expected to include an overview of any key changes in terms of activity, quality, workforce and finance.  

The narrative is important in making sure all involved have a clear understanding of the changes to the plan.  It should be easy for the reader to reconcile the content in the written narrative with data in the finance, activity and workforce templates.

Technical guidance

The refreshed joint NHS England and NHS Improvement technical guidance for NHS planning has now been published and should be read in conjunction with the updated technical guidance for providers for specific submissions published below.

Supplementary technical guidance for NHS trusts and foundation trusts

Technical guidance for NHS financial planning return 2018/19 PDF, 3.0 MB

Updated technical guidance to help with completion of the financial planning template.

Technical guidance: workforce planning 2018/19 PDF, 353.9 KB

Updated technical guidance from NHS Improvement and Health Education England to ensure that trust planning requirements identify the workforce-planning requirements for delivering patient services.

Activity planning: NHS planning refresh 2018/19 – acute and ambulance provider activity plan template PDF, 294.9 KB

New technical guidance on the new acute provider activity lines and introducing ambulance activity lines.

Sustainability and transformation fund and financial control totals

Full details will be published separately via an update to the existing Sustainability and Transformation Fund guidance shortly.

Sustainability and transformation fund and financial control totals for 2017/18 and 2018/19: indicative guidance PDF, 750.6 KB

Guidance for providers on the sustainability and transformation fund and financial controls for 2017/18 and 2018/19

Trust portal and submissions

Joint contract dispute resolution process for 2018/19

We have now published the joint contract dispute resolution process for 2018/19, and can be found in Annex C1 in the refreshed joint Technical Guidance.  

Proposed national tariff prices for 2017/18 and 2018/19

We have published national tariff prices for 2018/19. The prices and policies are set and will not be changed.  Please direct any queries on the national tariff

Quality, service improvement and redesign programme

Programme aimed at supporting health systems to develop quality and efficiency improvement capability in their system in order to build a sustainable local skills base from which to tackle the challenges identified in their sustainability and transformation plan. 

Considerations for determining local health and care economies

Monitor research on defining the boundaries of local health and care systems which may be useful to clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts and foundation trusts, local authorities, other key partners and arm’s length bodies when they agree their planning or transformation footprints.

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