Introducing the Health and Care Bill

A focus on patients, not paperwork. That’s the aim of the Health and Care Bill which was introduced to Parliament on 6th July. The Bill builds on NHS recommendations for reform, including the White Paper ‘Integration and Innovation: Working together to improve Health and Social Care for all’ which was published in February 2021.

Delivering the Bill’s objectives requires a greater focus on collaboration between the NHS, care providers and local councils. By bringing together areas such as social and mental health care in the community alongside NHS services it is hoped that the needs of individuals as well as the population as a whole will be better met. As 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.

This joined-up care even extends to dental and ophthalmic services, giving integrated care boards responsibility for these areas. For example, section 99 of the new Bill requires integrated care boards to make the necessary arrangements to secure the provision of primary dental services to meet the reasonable requirements of the persons for whom it is responsible.

It is also hoped that the new flexible and collaborative model proposed by the Bill will enable the development of new solutions such as moving certain services out from hospitals and into communities. In turn this may help to deliver a more personal care structure for individuals as they look to move from hospital to community care settings.

Alongside that fresh emphasis on collaboration, the Bill also introduces a new procurement regime for the NHS. It is hoped that this will reduce bureaucracy and the need for competitive tendering. In particular it is envisaged that this will also speed up the procurement process, helping health services to react in a more timely fashion to changes in health requirements, such as that caused by Covid.

Preventative measures also come in for review with the emphasis on reducing future demand on health services. Here again the Covid pandemic has highlighted the impact of poor health regimes and inequality in health outcomes and the need for the Government to act in improving the general health of the population. One area here which has already come in for comment is the decision to ban the advertising of junk food on TV before 9pm.

Commenting on the Bill the Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“The astonishing response of our health and care services to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit fast-forward on some of the bold changes the NHS set out to deliver in its Long Term Plan and shone the spotlight on other areas that require change to achieve better care for our communities. To help meet demand, build a better health service and bust the backlog, we need to back the NHS, as it celebrates its 73rd birthday this week, and embed lessons learned from the pandemic. This will support our health and care services to be more integrated and innovative so the NHS can deliver for people in the decades to come.”