NHS England has promised to put an end to the ‘fractured’ health and social care system which leaves patients ‘passed from pillar to post’ by giving more control to communities.
At NHS Confed17 in Liverpool, head of NHS England Simon Stevens announced nine areas in England, covering seven million people, which will be the forefront of nationwide action to provide joined up, coordinated care.
The project is an attempt to ‘break down barriers’ – between general practice and hospitals, physical and mental health care, and social care and the NHS.
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Mr Stevens said: ‘As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday, we are now embarked on the biggest national move to integrating care of any major western country. For patients this means better joined up services in place of what has often been a fragmented system that passes people from pillar to post.’
Eight ‘accountable care systems’ (ACSs) will bring together local NHS organisations, some in partnership with social care services and the voluntary sector. They build on the early results of NHS England’s new care model ‘vanguards’, which Mr Stevens said are slowing emergency hospitalisations growth by up to two thirds compared with other less integrated parts of the country.
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The first group of designated ACSs have agreed with national leaders to deliver fast track improvements set out in Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View, including taking the strain off A&E, investing in general practice making it easier to get a GP appointment, and improving access to high quality cancer and mental health services.
Mr Stevens promised these areas will also lead the way in taking more control over funding available to support transformation programmes – with the combined indicative potential to control around £450 million of funding over the next four years – matched by accountability for improving the health and wellbeing of the populations they cover.
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NHS national bodies will provide these areas with more freedom to make decisions over how the health system in their area operates.