New proposals to build a modern health and care system that delivers better care for the UK’s communities have been introduced in Parliament.
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.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, 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. The bill seeks to ensure each part of England has an Integrated Care Board and an Integrated Care Partnership responsible for bringing together local NHS and local government, such as social care, mental health services and public health advice.
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‘This Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed and consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself,’ said Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.
‘They go with the grain of what our staff and patients can see is needed, by removing outdated and bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, and community services. In doing so, these pragmatic reforms build on the sensible and practical changes already well underway right across the NHS. And by enabling mutual support between different parts of the local health and care services they will undoubtedly both help tackle health inequalities and speed the recovery of care disrupted by the covid pandemic.’
While news of the bill’s introduction has been broadly positive, some healthcare organisations warned of potential flaws.
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‘Healthcare leaders are broadly supportive of the NHS Bill and there is much consensus that this is the right direction of travel, albeit one with a tight timetable and with lots to put in place over the next nine months,’ said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.
‘Our members are concerned, however, that some of the proposals are not what the health service wants to see, in particular those that could lead to significant centralised and ministerial involvement in everyday matters that affect the NHS. In their current form, these plans also bring with them the risk that arm’s-length bodies could be split up or abolished without scrutiny.’