The White Paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’ published yesterday reveal that power will be devolved from Whitehall to patients and professionals.
Patients will get more choice and control, backed by an information revolution. Services will be more responsive to patients and designed around them, rather than patients having to fit around services. The principle will be “no decisions about me without me”.
Under the new plans, patients will be able to choose which GP practice they register with, regardless of where they live, and choose between consultant-led teams. More comprehensive and transparent information, such as patients’ own ratings, will help them make these choices together with healthcare professionals.
Local authorities will be given statutory responsibility for bringing health and social care together under the radical NHS reforms announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley. It is planned that primary care trusts and strategic health authorities will be abolished by 2013.
The health White Paper aims to create the largest social enterprise sector in the world by increasing the freedoms of foundation trusts and giving NHS staff the opportunity to have a greater say in the future of their organisations, including as employee-led social enterprises.
Consortia of GP practices will take on responsibility for commissioning most health services from PCTs while councils will take on PCTs’ public health functions and be charged with leading the integration of health and social care locally. GP consortia will commission most health services with a few exceptions, including dentistry, community pharmacy and large-scale specialist services.
The government also announced a wide-ranging review of health and social care regulation with a view towards significantly reducing the burdens on commissioners and providers.
The health White Paper will mean a change in the role of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), with some of its functions in promoting and disseminating good practice in social care being transferred to a strengthened National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice). The White Paper states that ”The Health Bill will put NICE on a firmer statutory footing, securing its independence and core functions and extending its remit to social care”.
Closer integration of social care and health has been on every government agenda for many years. Putting People First and the Children’s Trusts have actively encouraged collaboration and partnerships. I hope that these radical proposals will build upon the many excellent examples of integrated working already in place which include the private and third sector. I am particularly concerned that the invaluable and innovative elearning developed by SCIE for the care sector over a number of years is maintained and further developed.
The health White Paper is the start of an extensive consultation that will take place over the coming weeks. The Department of Health will shortly be publishing a number of consultation documents to seek views on the more detailed proposals.
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