New blueprint for the health & care sector

Health and Care Bill is published

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6th July 2021 about a 4 minute read
These pragmatic reforms build on the sensible and practical changes already well underway right across the NHS. Lord Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive

The long-awaited Health and Care Bill has been published following extensive discussions with the sector, NHS England  and the Local Government Association to refine the blueprint.

But Jeremy Hunt MP, Health and Social Care Committee chair, said: “While we welcome the direction of travel in health and care services outlined by the Bill, the proposals for Integrated Care Systems must be subject to transparent and independent Ofsted-style assessments on the quality and safety of care if improvements are to be delivered for patients.

“There are, however, two major omissions of great concern: firstly on social care, where this Bill is a missed opportunity to publish not only the detail of planned reforms, but crucially, how they will be paid for. Secondly, it says little about the desperately needed overhaul of workforce planning given the shortages in nearly every NHS and care specialty right now. Without addressing such pressing issues the broader ambition of the Bill will not be achieved.”

The Bill builds on the proposals for legislative change set out by NHS England in its Long Term Plan, while also incorporating “valuable lessons” learnt from the pandemic aimed at benefitting staff and patients.

The government says it is committed to delivering world-class care for patients and that the Bill will help deliver that by building on the NHS’ own proposals for reform, making it less bureaucratic, more accountable, and more integrated in the wake of COVID-19.

It says the changes are vital to help the NHS build back better from the pandemic.

COVID-19 had reinforced the need for closer collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers to provide more joined up working, and staff and patients had rapidly adopted new technologies to deliver better care.

But at times in recent years the legal framework had made this more difficult, as it was not designed with this type of collaboration in mind.

The Bill will ensure each part of England has an Integrated Care Board and an Integrated Care Partnership responsible for bringing together local NHS and local government to deliver joined up care for its local population.

Clinicians, carers and public health experts will be empowered to operate collaboratively across health and care, as part of plans to tackle inequalities and level up health across the country.

The Bill will also introduce measures to tackle obesity and improve oral health.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The astonishing response of our health and care services to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit fast-forward on some of the bold changes the NHS set out to deliver in its Long Term Plan and shone the spotlight on other areas that require change to achieve better care for our communities.

“To help meet demand, build a better health service and bust the backlog, we need to back the NHS, as it celebrates its 73rd birthday this week, and embed lessons learned from the pandemic. This will support our health and care services to be more integrated and innovative so the NHS can deliver for people in the decades to come.”

Key measures include:

  • The NHS and local government coming together to plan health and care services around their patients’ needs, and quickly implement innovative solutions to problems which would normally take years to fix, including moving services out of hospitals and into the community, focusing on preventative healthcare.
  • The development of a new procurement regime for the NHS and public health procurement, informed by public consultation, to reduce bureaucracy on commissioners and providers alike, and reduce the need for competitive tendering where it adds limited or no value. This will mean staff can spend more time on patients and providing care, and local NHS services will have more power to act in the best interests of their communities.
  • A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector. This will improve oversight and accountability in the delivery of services through new assurance and data sharing measures in social care, update the legal framework to enable person-centred models of hospital discharge, and introduce improved powers for the Secretary of State to directly make payments to adult social care providers where required.
  • Supporting the introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed to level up health across the country. The pandemic has shown the impact of inequalities on public health outcomes and the need for government to act.