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Health and Social Care Bill published

Plans to modernise the NHS and put patients at the heart of everything it does were set out in the Health and Social Care Bill, published today.

The proposed changes will lead to better quality care, more choice and improved outcomes for patients, as well as long-term financial savings for the NHS, which will be available for reinvestment to improve care. Under the new measures there will, for the first time, be a defined legal duty for the NHS and the whole care system to improve continuously the quality of patient care in the areas of effectiveness, safety, and - most importantly - patient experience.

The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 includes proposals to:

  • Bring commissioning closer to patients by giving responsibility to GP-led groups.
  • Increase accountability for patients and the public by establishing HealthWatch and local health and wellbeing boards within local councils.
  • Liberate the NHS from political micro-management by supporting all trusts to become foundation trusts and establishing independent regulation.
  • Improve public health by creating Public Health England.
  • Reduce bureaucracy by streamlining arm's-length bodies.

The plans would improve the NHS in five key ways:

  • Patients would be more involved in decisions about their treatment and care so that it is right for them - there will be 'no decision about me without me'.
  • The NHS would be more focused on results that are meaningful to patients by measuring outcomes such as how successful their treatment was and their quality of life, not just processes like waiting list targets.
  • Clinicians would lead the way - GP-led groups will commission services based on what they consider their local patients need, not on what managers feel the NHS can provide.
  • There will be real democratic legitimacy, with local councils and clinicians coming together to shape local services.
  • They will allow the best people to deliver the best care for patients - with those on the front line in control, not Ministers or bureaucrats.

These measures will also save the NHS over £5bn by 2014/15 and then £1.7 bn every year after that - enough money to pay for over 40,000 extra nurses, 17,000 extra doctors or over 11,000 extra senior doctors every year. The majority of the savings would come from a significant reduction in bureaucracy following the abolition of strategic health authorities and primary care trusts, and a reduction in management staff by an estimated 24,500 posts. The changes would pay for themselves by 2012/13 and the subsequent savings would give the NHS a stable financial basis for the future.

The Bill was published today (19 January 2011). It will proceed through the Houses of Parliament over the coming months.