Many thanks to those who contacted me about the Health and Care Bill.
The unprecedented threat of the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us how vital our health and care system is to all of us. I want to assure you that the NHS will always be free at the point of use, and any proposed reforms will aim to continue to improve the quality of these services and patient outcomes.
As we build back better from this pandemic, it is right and necessary that our health and care services are at the forefront. The pandemic underlined not only the dedication and skill of those in this sector, but also the necessity of a broader, more integrated health and care system. I am glad of the Government’s intention to develop more joined up, integrated care between the NHS, Local Government and other partners including the voluntary and community sector, which will be vital in tackling the factors that affect the long-term sustainability of patient services. The Bill will make permanent some of the innovations we have seen as a result of the pandemic. I understand that these proposed reforms will also include proper accountability mechanisms, and give patients and the public the confidence that they are receiving the best care from their healthcare system.
The measures set out in the Health and Care Bill deliver on the NHS’s own proposals for reform in its Long Term Plan. I believe these proposals have been developed in consultation with key stakeholders in this sector, and I am encouraged by the preliminary positive feedback received. In particular, the comments from the former Chief Executive of NHS England, who has said that this Bill “will support our health and care services to be more integrated and innovative so the NHS can thrive in the decades to come”, are reassuring.
It is wrong to suggest that Integrated Care Boards and Partnerships are being used to support privatisation, or cuts to NHS funding. The NHS will always be free at the point of use, and I believe these reforms will continue to improve the quality of NHS services and outcomes for patients. Ensuring every part of England is covered by an Integrated Care Board and Partnership is a key way of promoting local collaboration.
Service provision by the independent and voluntary sectors has been, and continues to be, an important and valuable feature of our healthcare system, which I fully support. That said, I do appreciate that there are concerns about private sector involvement in Integrated Care Boards (ICB). It is important that people are assured that the work of ICBs will be driven by health outcomes, not by profits.
Therefore, I am glad that the Government has amended the Health and Care Bill, putting beyond doubt that Integrated Care Boards will not be controlled in any way by the private sector. No one that could potentially undermine the NHS due to their involvement in the private healthcare sector should sit on an ICB. The Government’s amendment makes clear that no one may be appointed to an ICB who would undermine the independence of the NHS, either as a result of their interests in the private healthcare sector, or otherwise.
I will continue to monitor this issue. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.