New health and social care bill introduced to parliament

A new Health and Social Care Bill that builds on the NHS Long Term Plan has been introduced to parliament.  

The Bill sets out how each part of England will have an Integrated Care Board as well as an Integrated Care Partnership, aiming to join up local NHS services with local government to provide tailored local care and support, including mental health and social care services. The Bill also introduces new measures to support areas such as obesity and dental health.  

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, commented: “This Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed and consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself. They go with the grain of what our staff and patients can see is needed, by removing outdated and bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, and community services.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” 

The new bill hopes to encourage collaboration between clinicians, public health experts and carers to tackle health inequalities and will aim to improve the level of care and support across the country.  The proposals were first worked on in February of this year, with the principles of integrated care forming a key part of the bill, following the roll-out of the 52 ICS’s earlier this year.  

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils broadly support the Bill’s focus on improving the health and wellbeing of the population and the duty of bodies to have regard to this in making decisions. We are strongly in favour of the duty to engage with patients, carers and representatives and hope and expect that there will be further guidance to help bring this to fruition. 

“The Bill seeks to remove barriers to integrating services to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities. The requirement for NHS integrated commissioning boards and local authorities to establish a health and care partnership with responsibility for producing an integrated care strategy is helpful. It is good to see recognition of the importance of Health and Wellbeing Boards and the health and wellbeing strategies and joint strategic needs assessment they produce, to improve the health and wellbeing of their populations.” 

A new range of social care measures will form a key part of the bill, as well as formally introducing new provisions to combat obesity, including the ban on junk food advertising from before 9pm. A new NHS procurement regime will also be laid out, to reduce bureaucracy and will be informed by public consultation.  

The Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said: “We welcome the publication of this Bill today which will help provide clarity for trusts in a fast-changing health and care landscape. Trusts have been at the forefront of the move towards closer collaboration and integration between health and care, a process that has accelerated in recent months to deal with the extraordinary pressures of the pandemic.The forthcoming legislation will formalise this process, so trusts and their partners can plan and cooperate more closely to help build healthier communities.”

The bill has not yet been published online, but is expected to as it progresses through the legislative process.