Delaying reforms will only hold NHS back from addressing challenges

Louise Patten responds to the Centre for Policy Studies' report 'Is Manchester Greater?'

3 September 2021

Responding to the Centre for Policy Studies' report 'Is Manchester Greater?', Louise Patten of the NHS Confederation, which represents Integrated Care Systems, said:

“NHS leaders support the move to greater integration of local health and care services in England through the creation of integrated care systems. The NHS Bill going through Parliament is merely catching up with collaboration of local services that have been taking place for several years. NHS leaders want this and believe the changes will improve care for patients and deliver more value for money for taxpayers. Any delays to the Bill will set back months of progress and, ultimately, harm patients.

“Putting local integrated care systems onto the statute book is an important next step, but this is a long-term ambition and NHS and care leaders know there is more progress to be made and that this takes time. There are many examples up and down the country of how health and social care organisations are working in partnership to deliver measurably better care for the public. We need to continue this progress and empower local leaders to tailor services to their local communities. The Government’s reforms are an important next step.

“This report from the Centre for Policy Studies seeks to measure success or failure of integrated care systems by how quickly patients are kept waiting in hospital when they are medically fit to leave and go back home, into a residential home or into another care setting. Ignoring the fact that many local integrated care systems have improved their performance on this measure, the wider ambitions of local systems is to move from the traditional hospital- based care and support patients with multiple long-term conditions through the collaboration of groups of providers. By focussing on joining up local services, systems can improve the health of their local communities and tackle long-standing inequalities that result in poorer and deprived communities experiencing worse outcomes and often dying younger. Moving to pro-active care models will ultimately protect hospitals from extra demand.

“Finally, the report ignores the wider context at play here. We now have more people needing care, often with more severe needs, and the decade of austerity we experienced in the 2010s left the NHS short of the funding it needed. As we edge closer to the Government’s spending review, we need a new settlement for the NHS and social care that enables local health and care services to respond to the rapidly rising demand that we are seeing and to deal with what is the most significant backlog of care we have seen in a generation. Delaying much needed reforms that will remove legislative barriers to integrating local health and care services will only serve to hold the NHS back from addressing these challenges.”