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Reforms will bring health and social care together

Long-awaited reforms will see health and social care services work more closely together.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the White Paper will be released today (February 11) and will see the NHS and local government come together legally as part of an integrated care system that is less bureaucratic.

DHSC said the shake-up will put the NHS in a better position to cope with an ageing population and a rise in people with complex health conditions.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The NHS and local government have long been calling for better integration and less burdensome bureaucracy, and this virus has made clear the time for change is now.

‘These changes will allow us to bottle the innovation and ingenuity of our brilliant staff during the pandemic, where progress was made despite the legal framework, rather than because of it.

‘The proposals build on what the NHS has called for and will become the foundations for a health and care system which is more integrated, more innovative and responsive, and more ready to respond to the challenges of tomorrow, from health inequalities to our ageing population.’

However, Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association the lack of patient involvement in the process is a ‘major weakness’.

‘The acid test for the new white paper will be whether it provides for true patient partnership, in decisions about both individual patient care and the planning and delivery of NHS services.

‘Although the broad thrust of the proposals developed by NHS England, towards greater integration, was very welcome, the lack of a clear role for patients was a major weakness, and we will need to see this rectified in order to be able to support the planned legislation.

‘The NHS cannot successfully meet the many challenges it faces if it does not listen to patients and value what they tell it.

‘We cannot return to traditional, paternalistic approaches of the NHS deciding and patients just having to accept it. The new proposals cannot succeed fully without true patient partnership.

‘At times during the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the NHS take decisions that work for it as an organisation, without taking patients’ needs into account.

It has been less prone to this in the second wave, but the initial emergency response showed how patient involvement can be swept aside with alarming ease. This must not be allowed to become a permanent feature of the NHS.’

The White Paper sets out the government’s proposals for legislation, building on the extensive consultation that has already been undertaken by NHS England. A Bill will be laid before Parliament later in the year.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: ‘Our legislative proposals go with the grain of what patients and staff across the health service all want to see, more joined-up care, less legal bureaucracy and a sharper focus on prevention, inequality and social care.

‘This legislation builds on the past seven years of practical experience and experimentation across the health service and the flexible ‘can-do’ spirit NHS staff have shown in spades throughout the pandemic.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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