A new government mandate for the NHS has emphasised the importance of working with local government and other public sector bodies, saying the health service must promote joint commissioning of health and social care services and work closely with local health and wellbeing boards.
The mandate is the mechanism the health secretary Andrew Lansley will use to set out what the new independent NHS Commissioning Board must deliver. It was published on Wednesday for consultation.
The document says people with long-term conditions and complex needs “report too often that their interactions with the health and social care system feel confusing and poorly coordinated.”
It says: “Greater integration involves recognising that healthcare outcomes are frequently interdependent, and that services must join up for those who use them. It is not necessarily achieved by combining organisations, but by designing services that respond to, and fit around, the needs and wishes of patients or care users.”
The mandate says health and wellbeing boards “provide one key way of rising to these challenges.” The boards offer “a real opportunity to create a new balance between prevention, treatment and care, which best meets the needs of their local community,” it says.
It also says the NHS Commissioning Board should “promote joint commissioning, supporting CCGs to work in partnership with other organisations to get the best possible outcomes – particularly for vulnerable groups and people with complex needs, including children with special education needs or disabilities, and the frail elderly.”
The document also urges the NHSCB to “transfer power to local organisations and enable the new commissioning system to flourish, so that…there is effective partnership working between CCGs and health and wellbeing boards.”
It says the NHS must improve the way it works with other services, to prevent hard-to-reach groups from “falling through the gaps.”
“Partnership working with other public services should be seen as a core part of what the NHS does, not an optional extra,” it says.
The final version of the mandate will be published in the autumn. Its objectives will cover the period from April 2013 to March 2015 and it will be revised each year.