New proposals for an integrated health and social care system that will ‘deliver better care for our communities’ will be introduced in Parliament today (July 6).
Covid-19 has reinforced the need for closer collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers to provide more joined-up working, and staff and patients have rapidly adopted new technologies to deliver better care.
But at times in recent years, the legal framework has made this more difficult, as it was not designed with this type of collaboration in mind.
Health bosses say the Health and Social Care Bill will ensure each part of England has an Integrated Care Board (ICB) and an Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) responsible for bringing together local NHS and local government, such as social care, mental health services and public health advice, 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. It will dispose of unnecessary bureaucracy that has held the health service back so that health and care staff can focus on patients, not paperwork, and ensure the system is able to flex to changing needs in the years to come.
It will ensure NHS England is more accountable to government, and by extension Parliament, while ensuring the NHS retains everyday operational and clinical oversight.
Rob Webster, chief executive, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership welcomed the news.
He said: ‘One of the real strengths of our Integrated Care System (ICS) has been the emphasis on shared purpose and real ambitions, such as tackling health inequalities for colleagues and communities from ethnic minority groups, for people with a learning disability and enduring mental illness.
‘We have ten such big ambitions agreed collectively and to be delivered in collaboration. It is great to see the permissive nature of the legislation which allows for systems like ours to build on the progress we have made, and to drive delivery through partnerships in places and provider collaboratives.’
However, Professor Martin Green, CEO, Care England warned that the Bill will need to be strengthened in order to achieve real integration between health and social care.
‘As the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, Care England has identified five main areas where the Health and Care Bill needs to be bolstered in order to assist real integration between health and social care.
‘Firstly, adult social care providers, for profit and not for profit, need to be directly represented on ICS NHS and Partnership Boards. Secondly, there must be a ten-year workforce plan that addresses adult social care.
‘Thirdly, the framework around assessment of local authorities to be subject to consultation and moreover created as well as co-produced by providers.
‘Fourthly, every ICS needs to fulfil a certain level of awareness and understanding of adult social care. Lastly, social care plans need to be produced by the prime minister before ICS come into effect.
‘Care England will be working with parliamentarians as the Bill makes progress through both Houses of Parliament.
‘Furthermore our vision, We Care for England, to be published later in the month will provide the Government with a plan as to how to deliver sustainable long term reform for the sector.’
In February 2021, the government set out its proposed plans and its introduction in Parliament today follows extensive discussions with NHS England, the Local Government Association and the health and care sector to refine this blueprint.
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 a 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.’
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