The Government has announced that it accepts the core recommendations of the NHS Future Forum report and will make changes to its plans for modernisation of health and social care.
The key changes include:
Reaffirming that Ministers are accountable overall.
- The original duty to promote a comprehensive health service will remain.
Wider involvement in clinical commissioning
- GP consortia will be called ‘clinical commissioning groups’. They will have governing bodies with at least one nurse and one specialist doctor.
- Commissioners will be supported by clinical networks advising on single areas of care, such as cancer, and new ‘clinical senates’ in each area of the country that will provide multi-professional advice on local commissioning plans. Both will be hosted within the NHS Commissioning Board.
- The governing bodies of clinical commissioning groups will have lay members and will meet in public.
- Foundation trusts will have public board meetings.
- Health and wellbeing boards will have a stronger role in local councils, with the right to refer back local commissioning plans that are not in line with the health and wellbeing strategy.
- There will be clearer duties across the system to involve the public, patients and carers.
Safeguards on competition
- Monitor’s core duty will be to protect and promote the interests of patients – not to promote competition as if it were an end in itself.
- There will be new safeguards against price competition, cherry-picking and privatisation.
Support for integrated care
- There will be stronger duties on commissioners to promote (and Monitor to support) care that is integrated around the needs of users – for example, by extending personal health budgets and joint health and social care budgets, in light of the current pilots.
- The NHS Commissioning Board will promote innovative ways to integrate care for patients.
A more phased transition
- Commissioning groups will all be established by April 2013 – there will be no two-tier system. But where a group is not yet ready, the NHS Commissioning Board will commission on their behalf.
- Monitor will continue to have transitional powers over all foundation trusts until 2016 to maintain high standards of governance during the transition.
- There will be a careful transition process on education and training, to avoid instability – more details will be announced in the autumn.
To ensure that Parliament has sufficient opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s changes, relevant parts of the Health and Social Care Bill will be recommitted. Further details of this, and the amendments the Government will make to the Bill, will be set out shortly.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘The independent NHS Future Forum has made a number of recommendations and we are accepting them. This has been a genuine exercise and it is clear from our response today that substantial changes have been made in the interests of patients.
‘The Forum confirmed that there is widespread support for the principles underpinning our plans for change: greater patient choice, “no decision about me, without me”, more control for doctors, nurses and frontline professionals, a focus on quality and results for patients, more information and more clout for the public. These changes now will help us make those principles a reality.’
The Government also today announced the independent NHS Future Forum will continue to lead on listening in the NHS, ensuring an effective communication channel with the NHS. Among other areas they will focus on education and training; patients’ rights and public health.