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The NHS has today launched a call for views on how targeted amendments to the law could help local and national health organisations work together more effectively to improve services for patients.
At a joint board meeting of NHS England and NHS Improvement, national leaders of the NHS approved a series of proposals for legal changes which they believe would help local health leaders deliver on the improvements for patients set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.
The suggestions include changing the law to:
- Encourage local health organisations to work more closely together, towards a shared goal of improving the health of the communities they serve, the quality of services, and the sustainability of the NHS;
- Reduce delays and costs associated with current procurement processes, while maintaining patient choice and introducing a new ‘best value’ test to ensure value for money for taxpayers;
- Allow different health organisations – such as hospitals, groups of GPs and voluntary groups and social enterprises – to come together to provide joined-up services which better meet the needs of local people in partnership with local government, and;
- Remove the barriers to greater coordination between the national NHS organisations, creating a single national voice for the NHS and making it easier to work together on the most important issues facing the health service, such as prevention, the workforce, and harnessing the opportunities presented by digital technology.
NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, said: “We heard from lots of people involved in developing the NHS Long Term Plan that progress would be accelerated towards a better integrated health service if some targeted changes could be made to the law.
“The proposals we have set out today are based on those initial conversations with local NHS leaders and senior clinicians, and we are now seeking a wider range of views before making our final recommendations to Parliament.”
NHS Improvement chief executive, Ian Dalton, said: “Hospitals, local health groups and councils in many areas are already seeing real benefits from greater joint working, but face frustration when they can’t go as far as they would like to improve patient care just because the law hasn’t kept up.
“So, while it’s possible to implement the NHS Long Term Plan without significant changes, this is a welcome opportunity to hear the views of staff, patients and the public about how we can overcome some of the obstacles to providing the kind of joined-up services we all want to see.”
The NHS Long Term Plan was published on 7 January 2019, and sets out how health and care services across England will work together over the next decade to ensure everyone has the best possible start in life, improve care for major physical and mental health conditions, and support people to age well.
When the Prime Minister asked NHS leaders to develop the Long Term Plan in June 2018, she also invited them to consider whether some targeted changes to the laws which dictate how the health service operates could help improve services for patients.
This invitation followed a recommendation from the cross-party Health and Social Care Select Committee in May 2018, that new legislation should be considered to address some of the challenges that the NHS faces in joining up services locally.
Initial proposals for legislative change, following initial feedback from local health and care leaders and staff groups, were outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.
These have now been expanded upon in Implementing the NHS Long Term Plan – Proposals for possible changes to legislation, and opened up for NHS staff, members of the public and other stakeholders to give their views on.
The engagement period will run from today until 25 April 2019.
The responses to the call for views will help develop a set of final recommendations to Ministers and Parliament later in the year.