Health Bill 'will improve collaboration in the NHS'

The Health Bill will encourage collaboration in the NHS, but more work is needed for integrated services to become a reality, the chairman of the NHS Future Forum has said.

Professor Field: NHS must focus on integrating health and social care

Speaking to GP, Professor Steve Field said he is confident the changes made to the Health Bill following the listening exercise will mean economic regulator Monitor will promote integration in the NHS.

But he said work needed to be done on establishing how Monitor will discharge these duties, as well as how NHS leaders, including GPs, can 'stretch the boundaries' to ensure integration happens.

'It's not about the Health Bill anymore' he said. 'It's about how we encourage integration in different ways.'

Professor Field said the NHS could consider changing payment tariffs and Payment by Results to ensure there are no financial barriers to integration.

'Collaboration has happened in some areas despite financial barriers,' he said. 'But removing some of the barriers and moving to a system of episodes of care with bundled payments could help the culture of the NHS change in terms of integration.'

Professor Field also said the NHS must focus on the integration of health and social care, which could help vulnerable groups get better access to health care.

Vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, often find it difficult registering with a GP practice as they cannot provide the utility bill needed as proof of address.

One solution to this problem would be to commission general practice services specifically for vulnerable groups, he said.

'Obviously we have not written the report yet, we are hearing lots of issues and looking for areas of good practice,' he said. 'We want good examples of general practice providing integrated services with social care for vulnerable groups, including the homeless and sex workers.'

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