Integrated care providers (ICPs) will give local areas the power to integrate care – bringing all the different healthcare services provided to local residents into a single contract – so patients have more care in their community and fewer trips to hospital, health minister Stephen Hammond announced this morning.
The government has today introduced changes to existing secondary legislation that, it said, make it easier for the first ICPs to be set up, moving the NHS towards more coordinated and continuous care. It said these changes will mean that, for the first time, primary medical services can be run through the same contract as other health and care services.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said ICPs are aimed at bringing care services together through a single contract, so patients’ care is coordinated around them; and delivering more care in the community and patients’ homes, improving access to services and reducing trips to hospital. It argued that it is currently difficult for different NHS organisations to deliver integrated care because they each have independent contracts with commissioners. But under today’s legal changes, ICPs will have to follow the same rules as other NHS organisations, such as those about complaints procedures and the reimbursement of travel expenses.
The DHSC emphasised that a GP’s or individual practice’s participation in an ICP is ‘entirely voluntary’ – and they can also decide on their role within an ICP if they do decide to integrate. And if a GP chooses to do so, it should now be easy for them to transfer their services from previous contracts to a new ICP contract.
It explained that the NHS Long Term Plan confirmed that NHS England would make the ICP contract available for use from 2019; the contract is expected to be held by statutory providers, such as NHS foundation trusts. Local clinicians and NHS staff will review any bids for the contract, ensuring that “it is the most effective and beneficial organisation for the local area”. And proposals will be scrutinised through the integrated support and assurance process before the first contracts are awarded.
Health minister Stephen Hammond commented this morning: “As part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS, which is backed by £20.5bn extra a year by 2023 to 2024, we want to make sure care fits around patients and not the other way round. These new regulations are a crucial step towards more integrated care for patients in England.
“Integrated care providers will give local areas the power to integrate care by bringing all the different healthcare services provided to local residents into a single contract.
“For patients it should mean fewer trips to hospital and more care in the community, and allows health and care services to work together seamlessly with a greater focus on preventative, proactive and coordinated care.”