The government has set out new proposals to bring health and care services closer together and build a system that is “fit for the future”.
The proposals, set out today in a government white paper, include plans to make integrated care the “default”, reduce legal bureaucracy and better support social care.
The white paper confirms some of the measures set out in a recently leaked document, including improved government oversight in the delivery of social care, updating the legal framework to enable person-centred models of hospital discharge and giving the Secretary of State improved powers to make payments directly to adult social care providers, where necessary.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.
“The proposals build on what the NHS has called for and will become the foundations for a health and care system which is more integrated, more innovative and responsive, and more ready to respond to the challenges of tomorrow, from health inequalities to our ageing population.”
Care leaders have welcomed the publication of the White Paper as a step towards “real integration between health and social care”.
UKHCA policy director Colin Angel said that if delivered well, the proposals would ensure that responsibilities in the Care Act 2014 are “properly met”.
He added: “Today’s White Paper promises to lay some of the foundations for longer-term reform of the adult social care system in England, including a more joined-up approach to social care and health.
“Of particular interest is what could be an answer to UKHCA’s consistent calls for greater oversight and accountability of the commissioning of social care by local government and the NHS. Improved powers for the Secretary of State to make payments directly to adult social care providers, where appropriate, will provide a way of avoiding delays which have characterised emergency funding during the pandemic.”
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “The publication of the NHS White Paper is an opportunity to recognise the interrelationship between health and social care and craft a long term vision for both sectors. Care England looks forward to working with the Government to develop this vision”.
“The current situation where health and social care sit in distinct silos is not good for citizens, and is certainly not making the best of the resources available. We hope that these reforms will reshape the NHS and move us towards a system that is measured by the outcomes and which has a seamless interface between health and social care.”
The Local Government Association said it understands the desire for greater transparency in social care, but warned that councils need to be an “equal partner” in the design of any national oversight”.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: “This must build on existing sector led improvement work, recognise local democratic accountability and give a voice to people who use and work in social care. It is helpful the white paper recognises the pressures facing social care and makes clear the Government remains committed to reform, but action is needed and proposals must be brought forward as a matter of urgency. These proposals do not address the need to put social care on a sustainable, long-term footing, nor the wider changes needed to ensure care and support can best enable people to live the lives they want to lead.”