Health and social care to become more integrated in new reforms, Government reveals
New proposals launched to “join up” health and care services and embed lessons learned from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, alongside NHS England and health and care leaders, will today (11 February 2021) set out new proposals bringing health and care services closer together.
The measures, set out in the 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, the Government says.
The Government says the changes 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 reforms will build on the so-called NHS’s Long Term Plan proposals and a bill will be laid in Parliament when parliamentary time allows to carry the proposals into law.
The measures include proposals to make integrated care the default, reduce legal bureaucracy, and better support social care, public health and the NHS.
The Government says the reforms will also 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.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said the proposals will become the foundations for a health and care system which is more integrated, adding: “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.”
Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, said the legislative proposals were “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.”
The proposals come just one day after a report from Newton and the County Councils Network argued that social care should remain with local authorities rather than come under NHS control.
Many of the improvements suggested in the report have also been proposed in today’s White Paper, including greater collaboration between councils, the NHS and care providers, and embracing digital transformation.
The Government says the proposals are designed to be “flexible”, allowing the health and care system to continue to evolve, and 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 White Paper include the NHS and local government coming together legally as part of ‘integrated care systems’ to plan health and care services around their patients’ needs, such as moving services out of hospitals and into the community and focusing on preventative healthcare.
Other reforms will “improve oversight and accountability” in the delivery of social care services through new assurance and data sharing measures, the Government says.
The new legislation will also “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.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has previously called for better-integrated working as a priority in their “Nine statements to help shape adult care reform”.
James Bullion, ADASS President, said he welcomed the paper with its placing of integrated care on a more permanent footing and its “clear role” for local authorities.
“Publication of this White Paper should be seen as the first step in an important journey over the coming months that will help shape all of our futures,” Bullion said.
The government also intends to bring forward separate, long-awaited proposals on social care reform later this year.
Bullion said these proposals, when published, must incorporate “all outstanding issues, including a workforce plan to put social care staff on an equal footing with workers in the NHS, greatly improved support for family carers and a commitment to long-term funding.”
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