The Chairman welcomed the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP (Secretary of State for Health & Social Care) to give a speech. The Minister noted the following points in his speech:
- Thanked the LGA for it’s input on the Health & Care Bill White Paper. A collaborative effort developed over two years; the Paper was focused on ensuring health services are effectively structured including those provided by local authorities.
- In the current system there is a disconnect arising from accountability for services at local and national levels. The White Paper aims maintain accountability while reducing bureaucracy, improving cooperation and increasing service levels.
- The Minister explained that while concerns around the timing of the Bill were noted, it is critical to do preparatory and Parliamentary work to allow implementation in 2022/23.
- Enacting the correct structures for Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in a population health management model was a key element to ensure resources were leading to community health outcomes. Such necessitated collaboration on budget aligning and joint planning.
- The Bill made provisions for greater transparency on social care to inform policy making and response to align the split accountabilities at local and national levels. A range of Public Health reforms including moving fluoridation to a national accountability and specific actions on tackling obesity were also included.
- Intended that the Bill would interlink with and support other reforms to public health, social care and mental health provisions to ultimately deliver improved public services.
In the subsequent discussion the following points were raised by members:
- A question arose on prospects for a long-term adult social care funding settlement. The Minister explained that the issue of the social care settlement is complex and cannot solely be funding focused.
- A concern was noted that the Bill could legislate against local care funds. The Minister explained that there was to integrate local programmes not undermine them.
- Specific concerns were noted with some proposed ICS boundaries, particularly on how ensuring they meet local circumstances, need and authority boundaries. Matt explained boundaries need to consider and work with local authority boundaries in order to deliver the best standard of care possible. He added that work continues a number of proposed boundaries in order to find the most suitable model.
- A concern was expressed with the proposals from an accountability perspective as it was felt that local government would not be an equal partner under the reorganisation. The Minister responded that the intention was to create a structure joined up different strands of work as effectively as possible.
- A question arose on the role of local Public Health teams under proposals, given the key role they had played in the pandemic response. Matt stressed that the role of public health would be strengthened and the delivery partnerships built on a local and national levels would be further enhanced.
- In response to a query on how the Levelling-Up agenda had been considered in the White Paper, Matt explained that the Fund was in the remit of MHCLG but in a health perspective the aim was to reduce health inequalities and enabling people to lead healthier lives.
- An explanation was requested of the role Health & Wellbeing Boards would have in the new structure. The Minister responded that the Boards would play a strategic planning role, with ICS responsible for delivery.
The Chairman thanked the Minister for attending the meeting, and for the good progress of the vaccination programme.