Government accepts revamp of health reforms

Prime minister David Cameron today accepted experts' proposals to overhaul the government's health reforms, including by involving social care professionals in the commissioning of healthcare.

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Prime minister David Cameron today accepted experts’ proposals to overhaul the government’s health reforms, including by involving social care professionals in the commissioning of healthcare.

In a speech delivered at a London hospital, Cameron accepted the key recommendations of the NHS Future Forum’s report, published yesterday, following a two-month consultation on ministers’ original reforms in the Health and Social Care Bill.

Cameron said: “The fundamentals of our plans – more control for patients, more power to doctors and nurses, and less bureaucracy in the NHS – are as strong today as they have ever been. But the detail of how we are going to make this all work has really changed as a direct result of this consultation.

“We have listened, we have learned, and we are improving our plans for the NHS.

Key changes include:

• Broadening the range of professionals involved in health commissioning. GP commissioning consortia will be renamed clinical commissioning groups and include representation from at least one specialist doctor and one nurse. They will also be advised by “multi-professional” clinical senates, which should include social care professionals.

• Promoting the integration of care. Clinical commissioning groups will have a duty to promote joined-up services both within the NHS and between health, social care and other local services.

• Prioritising the extension of personal health budgets, including making available joint health and social care budgets for individuals.

• Strengthening health and well-being boards, which will be based within councils with a remit to oversee health and social care locally. They will have a right to refer commissioning plans back to clinical commissioning groups or to the NHS Commissioning Board, which will have overall responsibility for the NHS nationally. They will also have a stronger role in promoting joint commissioning and integrated provision between health, public health and social care.

• Stronger safeguards against the creation of a market in NHS-funded care. A proposed duty on health regulator Monitor to promote competition as an end in itself will be removed; its core duty will be to protest and promote patients’ interests.

The Health and Social Care Bill will now be sent back to the House of Commons to be debated in detail by a committee of MPs for a second time, though health secretary Andrew Lansley said this would only apply to those parts of the legislation that would be changed.

This means that the bill is likely to return to the Commons before parliament’s summer recess, preventing a long delay in its progress.

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