Yesterday, our Health and Care Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons, as it continued its progress through Parliament, I watched the following debate closely, as getting this Bill right is absolutely crucial and I know is one constituents care deeply about - several have written in to me to express their thoughts on it, and I will be highlighting these to Ministers in Government.
This legislation focuses on increasing integration and innovation in local NHS services through the development of Integrated Care Systems. It also aims to improve care quality and patient safety, for example through the establishment of the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB), and setting standards, such as hospital food standards.
Key measures include (gov.uk):
- The development of a new procurement regime for the NHS and public health procurement, informed by public consultation, to reduce bureaucracy on commissioners and providers alike, and reduce the need for competitive tendering where it adds limited or no value. This will mean staff can spend more time on patients and providing care, and local NHS services will have more power to act in the best interests of their communities.
- A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector. This will improve oversight and accountability in the delivery of services through new assurance and data sharing measures in social care, 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 introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed, to level up health across the country.
- It will dispose of unnecessary bureaucracy which has held the health service back, so that health and care staff can focus on patients, not paperwork, and ensure the system is able to flex to changing needs in the years to come. It will ensure NHS England is more accountable to government, and by extension Parliament, while ensuring the NHS retains everyday operational and clinical oversight.
There are also measures to streamline how people with ongoing care needs are discharged from hospitals, the regulation of health and care professionals, the collection and sharing of data (including measures to support the development of new medicine registries), international healthcare, and hospital food standards.
The NHS England Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said the Bill’s proposals for integrated care were “widely supported”, and that "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." and that the reforms would “undoubtedly both help tackle health inequalities and speed the recovery of care disrupted by the covid pandemic.”
Additionally, my colleague the Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP, commented:
“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.”
I will continue to follow future debates closely in Westminster in the weeks ahead and raise constituents' thoughts and points on this Bill with my colleagues in DHSC, ahead of the consideration of amendments.