The Health and Social Care Secretary, with the support of NHS England and health and care system leaders, has set out new proposals to bring health and care services closer together by improving care and tackling health inequalities through measures to address obesity, oral health and patient choice.
The measures set out today, in a government white paper, will modernise the legal framework to make the health and care system fit for the future and put in place targeted improvements for the delivery of public health and social care. It will support local health and care systems to deliver higher-quality care to their communities, in a way that is less legally bureaucratic, more accountable and more joined up, by bringing together the NHS, local government and partners together to tackle the needs of their communities as a whole.
The proposals build on the NHS’ recommendations for legislative change in the Long Term Plan and come a decade on from the last major piece of health and care legislation. While the NHS has made practical adaptations within the current legal framework, this can be unnecessarily time consuming and changes are now necessary as part of the future recovery process from the pandemic.
The measures include proposals to make integrated care the default, reduce legal bureaucracy, and better support social care, public health and the NHS. The reforms will enable the health and care sector to use technology in a modern way, establishing it as a better platform to support staff and patient care, for example by improving the quality and availability of data across the health and care sector to enable systems to plan for the future care of their communities.
Commenting, Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordshire, said:
"We want to embed lessons learned during the pandemic and bring health and care services closer together to improve care and tackle health inequalities. The White Paper sets out measures that will make integrated care the default, reduce bureaucracy, improve accountability and better support social care, public health and the NHS. The reforms will also establish technology as a better platform to support staff and patients.
"By acting now, we can make permanent some of the changes where Covid has forced the system to find new and better ways of working, and clear the path for improvements into the next decade such as delivering on our manifesto commitments including 50,000 more nurses and 40 new hospitals."
The proposals are designed to be flexible, allowing the health and care system to continue to evolve, and are designed to better equip the NHS and local health services to meet the longer-term health and societal challenges over the coming decades.
Key measures included in the ‘Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’ white paper include:
- Joining up health and care services - The NHS and local government to come together legally as part of integrated care systems 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
- Reducing bureaucracy - Hardworking NHS staff currently waste a significant amount of time on unnecessary tendering processes for healthcare services. Under today’s proposals, the NHS will only need to tender services when it has the potential to lead to better outcomes for patients. 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
- Patient Safety - The safety of patients is at the heart of NHS services. The upcoming bill will put the Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch permanently into law as a statutory body so it can continue to reduce risk and improve safety. The Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch already investigates when things go wrong without blaming people, so that mistakes can be learned from, and this strengthens its legal footing
- 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
- Levelling up health across the country - The pandemic has shown the impact of inequalities on public health outcomes and the need for government to act to help level up health across the country. Legislation will help to support the introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed