Letter from Jane Halpin on the Health and Care Bill

Following Jane Halpin’s update at the ICS-wide all staff briefing, please see letter below about the Health and Care Bill with information on what it means for CCG and ICS staff…

Dear colleague

You are probably aware that a Health and Care Bill was introduced in Parliament last week, by the new Secretary of State for Health and Care, Sajid Javid. This follows on closely from the publication of the Integrated Care System design framework, which reinforced the importance of working together to improve health and care for all, and extended the employment guarantee to all CCG staff below Board level.

The Health and Care Bill builds on the proposals for legislative change set out by NHS England and NHS Improvement in its Long Term Plan, while also incorporating valuable lessons learnt from the pandemic that will benefit both staff and patients.

In February 2021, the government set out its proposed plans, and the Bill’s introduction to Parliament follows extensive discussions with NHS England, the Local Government Association and the health and care sector.

COVID-19 has reinforced the need for closer collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers to provide more joined-up working, with staff and patients rapidly adopting new technologies to deliver better care. But at times in recent years the legal framework has made this more difficult, as it was not designed with this type of collaboration in mind.

The Bill is more or less what we expected to see with a few tweaks and changes. It talks more clearly about an Integrated Care Board (which is essentially what was originally referred to as the NHS ICS Body), as well as confirmation of a wider Integrated Care Partnership that each Integrated Care Board and its partner local authorities will be required to establish. The Integrated Care Partnerships will bring together local NHS organisations and local government – including social care, mental health services, housing providers and public health expertise – to deliver joined-up care for their local populations. Clinicians, carers and public health experts will be empowered to operate collaboratively across health and care to tackle health inequalities. The Bill also includes measures to tackle obesity and improve oral health.

The Bill aims to help reduce unnecessary bureaucracy so that health and care staff can focus more on patients, and ensure the system is able to flex to changing needs in the years to come. It is also designed to make NHS England and Improvement more accountable to government, and by extension Parliament, while ensuring the NHS retains everyday operational and clinical oversight.

Key measures from the Bill include:

  • The NHS and local government coming together to plan health and care services around their patients’ needs, and quickly implement innovative solutions to problems which would normally take years to fix, including moving services out of hospitals and into the community, focusing on preventative healthcare.
  • The proposed development of new procurement rules which apply to NHS and public health service commissioners when commissioning clinical healthcare services, such as hospital or community services. These will be informed by public consultation and should reduce the need for competitive tendering where it adds limited value.
  • The increased sharing and more effective use of data across the health and adult social care system.
  • 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.
  • Supporting the introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed.

As we have discussed before, all staff below Board level and functions of the CCGs will transfer to the ICS, along with many other duties and accountability across the system. There will also be a transfer of several NHS England and NHS Improvement direct commissioning functions, which is currently being explored. A lot of work is taking place across our system to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

The Integrated Care System Design Framework document makes it clear that the aim is to ‘create an environment which enables change to take place with minimum uncertainty, providing employment stability for colleagues who are involved’. The Executive team and I will continue to ensure you are kept up to date, with regular discussions to ensure that you are aware of the latest position and developments.

The Bill does not address the ICS boundary issue, and we know that the recent appointment of a new Secretary of State has led to some further scrutiny on many aspects of the Bill. We remain hopeful that there will be an outcome within the next two weeks. I will ensure that you are kept up to date with any developments. I know that the uncertainty over this issue has been unsettling, particularly for West Essex CCG colleagues.

Yours sincerely

Dr Jane Halpin
Joint Chief Executive Officer
Herts and West Essex ICS and CCGs

Any questions?

If you have any questions contact the Communications team, so we can take them into account in future staff briefings.

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