An NHS shake-up on Friday sees the launch of 42 integrated care systems (ICSs) covering the whole of England. They bring together GP teams, hospitals, local authorities and other partners to plan and deliver services tailored to the needs of their populations.
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which had control of local budgets until now, are being absorbed into ICSs as part of the reforms.
Under the previous framework, competition between organisations was promoted but this has been scrapped in favour of more joined-up working.
Some regions have already rolled out new services under the changes, including a GP practice in Stockport providing blood pressure checks in betting shops.
In Coventry and North Warwickshire, a local sports club offers diabetes and weight management support, taking referrals from GPs and reaching out to at-risk locals.
And in Bedfordshire, staff are visiting patients who repeatedly call 999 unnecessarily to understand their needs and offer support.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said the changes had the “power to completely transform health and care for people in their local communities”.
She said: “Not only will the NHS provide care when someone is unwell or has an accident but alongside our local government partners, we must also now play an increasing key role in managing peoples’ health so that we can catch more killer conditions earlier and save lives.
“Through these schemes, we are already making a massive difference to peoples’ lives.”
The changes are expected to save an estimated £14 million annually by reducing the number of chief executives in the NHS by almost 170.
Health chiefs said they will also help to clear the NHS backlog as hospital trusts work together to clear waiting lists.
Louise Ansari, national director at Healthwatch England, said ICSs would allow people’s views to be taken into account when planning services.
She said: “For instance, we know there’s a desire among the public to see services closer to where people live, making them more accessible and truly at the heart of communities.
“When services act on the experiences of those they serve, it results in better care.”
Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Integrated care systems will allow local authorities and the NHS to pool their wealth of skills and local knowledge to ensure people are receiving appropriate, timely and effective care.”
Meanwhile, changes to allow more health professionals to certify fit notes come into force today (THURS) to ease the strain on NHS doctors.
Nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists working in GP surgeries or hospitals will be able to issue the notes, sparing patients unnecessary appointments to have a doctor sign them.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Slashing unnecessary bureaucracy is key to ensuring more patients can see their GP quickly and get the care they need as we bust the Covid backlogs.”