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11.06.18

MPs call for ringfenced cash and ‘national transformation strategy’ for health and social care

Long-term dedicated funding for integrated health and social care services is necessary to secure a “holistic, joined-up and coordinated experience” for patients, according to a committee report.

MPs in the Health and Social Care Committee published their findings today into how to improve the standard and efficiency of health and social care delivered to the public, noting that difficulties to improve the service are often amplified by a lack of public understanding of the scheme.

In their report, the committee argued that factions of the department had “got off to a difficult start,” such as the sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), where local authorities and the NHS work together to provide coordinated care.

STPs struggled at the start due to the perception that the partnerships were a smokescreen for cuts, which “tainted the STP brand,” according to MPs.

MPs said poor communication between local bodies and communities caused this confusion, adding: “Trust in government, politicians and system leaders has long been low and despite doctors and nurses enjoying high levels of public trust compared to other professions, mistrust among the public plays into local changes to services.”

The committee members outlined several areas where legislative change may need to be evaluated, including changes to legislation covering procurement and competition, a merger of NHS England and NHS Improvement, and an improvement of the CQC’s regulator powers.

The legislative changes are part of a broader scheme of priorities for change, including the “development of a national transformation strategy backed by secure long-term funding” to accelerate progress towards more integrated care, a ring-fenced transformation fund, and a “clear and persuasive” explanation of the benefits of integrated health and social care.

“Transformation remains key to sustainability. What is now required is the dedicated national financial and leadership support to enable the NHS to transform at pace. Too often plans are constrained by the upfront funding needed to make them effective,” the report stated.

The MPs added: “The NHS is currently in survival mode, with NHS Providers struggling to recruit, train and retain staff and balance their books. A long-term funding settlement and effective workforce strategy are essential not only to alleviate immediate pressures on services, but to facilitate the transition to more integrated models of care.”

Julie Wood, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC), said: “It was good to see that they have identified the efforts and progress that has already been made in ‘difficult circumstances’ but also rightly describe some of the main challenges that commissioners and providers are attempting to overcome as they strive to deliver the much-needed change at scale and pace within the current NHS framework.

Wood added that NHSCC had been asking the government for a “clear national narrative” and a ring-fenced transformation fund, and welcomed the support and recommendations in these critical areas.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is a landmark report. It rightly dismisses all the nonsense about privatisation, but it also challenges us all about how to shape the future and bring patients with us.

“The committee is spot on – there is too much jargon and there are too many acronyms. The promise of a longer term settlement provides a great opportunity to involve doctors nurses and managers as well as other frontline staff in setting shared goals for health and care  for the next decade.”

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