Health act introduces joint council and PCT assessments

Councils and primary care trusts face a new duty to produce joint assessments of social care and health needs of their populations under legislation that passed into law this week.

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 also introduces monitoring bodies for health and social care services led by users and members of the public, and measures reforming government’s regulation of local authorities.

Councils and PCTs are now under a duty to co-operate in producing joint strategic needs assessments (JSNAs) for health and social care, including analyses of outcomes and inequalities, what people want from services, and future needs up to five years ahead.

In its commissioning framework for health and well-being, published in March, the Department of Health said many councils and PCTs did not carry out joint assessments, preventing the development of jointly-funded provision and integrated care for adults with health and social care needs.

The DH said JSNAs should set out achievable improvements in health and well-being, send signals to existing and potential providers about service needs and feed into local area agreements, which the new act place on a statutory footing.

From next year, councils and named public sector partners must draw up an LAA, laying out their top local priorities, which they will submit for government approval. They must include 35 targets drawn from a set of 198 indicators, which they will be assessed on.

The act will also set up local involvement networks (LINks) from next April. These are community and service-user led monitoring bodies for health and social care services, which will produce reports and recommendations on services, that councils and PCTs must respond to.

The DH is still consulting on LINks’ precise powers, but intends for them to have the right to enter certain service premises but not others, with children’s social care services, non-communal areas of care homes and people’s homes excluded.

Councils will be given £84m over the next three years to set up “host organisations” to support and provide advice to LINks, which will replace existing health-only patient and public involvement forums.

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