NHS shake-up signals major changes for social care

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The NHS will be overhauled with significant implications for its relationship with social care, under legislation published today.

Primary care trusts will be scrapped with consortia of GP practices taking responsibility for commissioning most health services and councils taking on PCTs’ public health roles, under the Health and Social Care Bill.

To promote joint working between health and social care, consortia will be required to become members of new health and well-being boards that will be set up in each local authority.

Boards will produce strategies covering health, social care and public health, which consortia and councils will have a duty to have regard to, while boards will also have a duty to promote joint working between health and social care in their areas.

The bill also includes provision to abolish the General Social Care Council and vest responsibility for regulating social work in England with the Health Professions Council – which would be renamed the Health and Care Professions Council.

London Councils said the reforms to the NHS would only work with the full involvement of local authorities.

“The proposed bill will bring about considerable change for the nation’s health services and they are going to need local authorities to help steer them through this turbulent period,” said Colin Barrow, its executive member for health and adult services.

“But we can also help them deliver a more efficient health service. By breaking down the barriers between health and social care, we will be able to deliver the services our residents want despite shrinking budgets.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners welcomed the proposed powers for GPs and stressed the importance of joint working with social care.

However, it raised concerns about the impact of the bill on the vulnerable, particularly proposals to inject greater competition into health service provision.

“The college is concerned that some of the types of choice outlined in the government’s proposals run a risk of destabilising the NHS and causing long-term harm to patient outcomes, particularly in cases of children with disabilities, those with multiple co-morbidities and the frail and elderly,” said college chair Dr Clare Gerada.

“While the government has sought to reassure us, we have yet to be presented with sufficient evidence to underpin these reassurances.”

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