Patient-centred NHS a step closer to reality

Plans to modernise the National Health Service and put patients at the heart of everything it does have been set out in the Health and Social Care Bill.

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; and
  • Reduce bureaucracy by streamlining arm's-length bodies.

The plans will improve the NHS in key ways:

  • Patients 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 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
  • Doctors to 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.

These measures will also save the NHS over £5 billion by 2014/15 and then £1.7 billion 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 will 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.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley says, "Modernising the NHS is a necessity, not an option - in order to meet rising need in the future, we need to make changes. We need to take steps to improve health outcomes, bringing them up to the standards of the best international healthcare systems, and to bring down the NHS money spent on bureaucracy. This legislation will deliver changes that will improve outcomes for patients and save the NHS £1.7 billion every year - money that will be reinvested into services for patients. This is the start of a cultural shift to a patient-centred NHS. The proposals set out in the Health and Social Care Bill will strengthen the NHS for the future and make the changes that are needed for vital modernisation to put more patients and NHS staff in control."

Sir David Nicholson of the NHS adds:” Central to the Health and Social Care Bill is mobilising the whole of the NHS to improve outcomes for patients and we should all welcome that. The reforms present the opportunity to develop a system designed to deliver that. The values and principles of the service remain unchanged, enshrined in the NHS Constitution and in the work of our staff every day. It is critical for the service to keep its focus and purpose of improving quality for patients and to make the reforms a foundation for improvement. This is a major challenge when we are already planning to make £15-£20bn efficiency savings but I am confident we will be able to do this, to establish a health and care system that achieves the best outcomes for patients."

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