England is to be divided into integrated care boards and partnerships responsible for bringing together local NHS and local government, such as social care, mental health and public health advice.
These will replace clinical commissioning groups and are among provisions in the new Health and Care Bill, which the Department for Health and Social Care said drew on lessons from the pandemic that showed the need for closer collaboration between the NHS, local authorities and care providers.
It admitted that the existing legal framework “has made this more difficult, as it was not designed with this type of collaboration in mind”.
The Bill “will dispose of unnecessary bureaucracy that 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,” the department said.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “This Bill contains widely supported proposals for integrated care, which have been developed and consulted on over recent years by the NHS itself.
“They go with the grain of what our staff and patients can see is needed, by removing outdated and bureaucratic legal barriers to joined-up working between GPs, hospitals, and community services.”
Sir Simon said the reforms would better enable mutual support between different parts of the local health and care services.
Gerard Hanratty, head of health at law firm Browne Jacobson, said: “The new Health and Care Bill does essentially follow on from that proposed in the White Paper but it is interesting to see that the new statutory body to replace clinical commissioning groups will be the integrated care board and that will create a joint committee with relevant local authorities to form the integrated care partnership.
“It is also clear that a number of new duties are focused on supporting the move to collaborative working across health and social care, specifically the joint working arrangements give a significant degree of flexibility.”
David Fothergill, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We have some concerns regarding the power of the Secretary of State to call in NHS reconfiguration proposals and strongly contend that the role of local health overview and scrutiny committees in these matters should not be undermined.”
Cllr Fothergill said councils broadly supported the Bill’s focus on improving public health and wellbeing and the duty of bodies to have regard to this in making decisions.
He said the requirement to establish a health and care partnership with responsibility for producing an integrated care strategy was helpful, as was the anticipated flexibility for areas to make their own arrangements for joining up services and setting strategies for improving population health.