NHS and government must improve communication of reforms

The Health and Social Care Committee has reported that the government and the NHS must improve how they communicate NHS reforms to the public in their report on integrated care.

Care services are looking after a population which is living longer and with increasingly complex health and care needs, including multiple long-term conditions. While this is not a new revelation, integration of services, and the organisations planning and delivering them, is too often hampered by current legislation.

While there are a number of examples of NHS and care services collaborating to deliver better care, the committee finds that there has been a failure to consistently engage with local leaders in the design of service changes, with poor communication confusing both health professionals and the public alike.

The Health and Social Care Committee recognises the potential benefits of further integration and calls on the government to bring forward legislation to remove legal barriers imposed by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, with the use of accountable care organisations (ACOs), sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems differing from their US counterparts with whom they share a name. If a decision is taken to extend the use of ACOs in the English NHS then the committee recommends that these should be introduced in primary legislation as NHS bodies.

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the committee, said: “It is the triumph of our age that more people are living longer, but as MPs we too often see our constituents, their families and their carers grapple with local services that may be poorly organised around their needs and struggling to cope with the rising demand for care. As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday national leaders, and politicians from across the political spectrum at national and local level, must help to make the case for change to the public. Any effort to transform care will flounder and lose support unless it can demonstrate that patients and their families will benefit.”

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