Ahead of the second reading of the health and care bill in parliament on 14 July, the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and the Local Government Association have published a joint statement setting out the key issues and concerns that they share in regard to the bill.
Broadly, we are in agreement that the direction of travel set by the bill is the right one.
There are, however, shared areas of concern and we urge the government to work with us to address as the legislation progresses through parliament:
- Significantly increased powers for the Secretary of State
It is important to preserve the operational and clinical independence of the NHS so any new powers of direction for ministers do not impinge on issues such as procurement, treatment, drug funding and the hiring and firing of frontline NHS leaders.
- Maintaining clear lines of accountability
We will be seeking further clarity as to how the new ‘pieces’ of the health and care jigsaw fit together to maintain clear lines of accountability for public expenditure and care quality to the public, to national stakeholders, and to parliament.
- A greater focus on the health and care workforce
The bill includes little to acknowledge or how to address the 100,000 vacancies in the NHS across England, with only a duty on the Secretary of State to set out how workforce planning responsibilities are to be discharged once every five years. We believe that this alone is insufficient and that more comprehensive workforce planning is needed backed by sufficient funding.
- Social care
We welcome the commitment made by the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid that proposals will be brought forward on adult social care reforms. Many of the challenges faced across the health and care system in England simply cannot be addressed without a long-term funding settlement for these services.