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Blueprint for post-pandemic NHS and social care reform launched

11 February 2021

The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has set out new proposals to bring health and care services closer together.

The measures, set out in a government White Paper, intend to modernise the legal framework, and make it less bureaucratic, more accountable and more joined up to address the needs of communities as a whole.

The tendering process introduced over a decade ago will be reduced, to allow staff to focus more on patient care than procurement processes. The Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch will be put permanently into law as a Statutory Body so it can continue to reduce risk and improve safety. A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector will be introduced to 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 Department for Health and Social Care says that the pandemic has shown the impact of inequalities on public health outcomes and the need for Government to act to help level up health across the country.

However, Disability groups are concerned the Paper will not go far enough on social care. Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the Learning Disability charity Mencap said: “There are huge benefits to further integration between the NHS and the provision of social care. However, this reform will backfire unless the crisis in social care is addressed now. Social care has been treated as the poor relation to the healthcare system for too long, and it needs to be placed on an equal footing before we embark on any reform.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Bringing health bodies and Local Authorities together to plan services across local areas and tackle inequalities is a laudable aim, however without genuine co-production with Disabled people at the heart of the reform, and without increased investment in social care, there is a danger that this will just be a shuffling round of the deckchairs.”