Last reviewed 13 July 2021

The new Health and Care Bill, first published in a White Paper in February 2021, has been brought to Parliament in the next step towards becoming law.

The package of measures includes plans to replace clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) with new integrated care systems (ICSs), and place them on a statutory footing to be responsible for commissioning and bringing together local NHS and local government services, such as those covering social care and mental health.

The Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened a focus on the need for closer collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers to provide more joined-up working. Staff and patients have also adopted new technologies to deliver better care.

However, the Government said, 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 empowers clinicians, carers and public health experts to operate collaboratively across health and care.

Outgoing NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said the Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed and consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself. He said they remove “outdated and bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, and community services”.

He said by “enabling mutual support between different parts of the local health and care services they will undoubtedly both help tackle health inequalities and speed the recovery of care disrupted by the Covid pandemic”.

Care England Chief Executive Professor Martin Green said his organisation had identified five main areas where the Health and Care Bill needs to be bolstered in order to assist real integration between health and social care.

  1. Adult social care providers, for profit and not for profit, need to be directly represented on ICS NHS and Partnership Boards.

  2. There must be a ten-year workforce plan that addresses adult social care.

  3. The framework around assessment of local authorities needs to be subject to consultation and created as well as co-produced by providers.

  4. Every ICS needs to fulfil a certain level of awareness and understanding of adult social care.

  5. Social care plans need to be produced by the Prime Minister before ICSs come into effect.

The White Paper, Integration and Innovation: Working Together to Improve Health and Social Care For All, is available here.

Information about the Bill is available here.