Easily the most encouraging thing about Simon Stevens’ speech to the recent Local Government Association conference was his acknowledgement that health service has a bigger role to play in communities.
In both his comments on the potential for further devolution of health budgets, and his offer for the NHS to work with local authorities on health and social care “new towns”, the NHS England chief executive has recognised that the scope and potential of integration is not limited to health and social care
The “new towns” idea was first set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View last year which highlighted the “opportunity to design services from scratch… integrating not only health and social care, but also other public services”.
At the time this was viewed as a bit of a curveball by some in the health service wih the new towns teasingly named ‘Stevensville’.
This perhaps reflects how far the NHS has to go to understand the place agenda: as Mr Stevens acknowledged in his speech the NHS has not been a “terribly good partner” in the past.
What is disappointing is the “offer” made by Mr Stevens is for the NHS to work with just five areas to consider health services at the outset of a new development, rather than a commitment that this should become business as usual across the country.
Yet with the clamour fo health devolution mounting across the country, the building of Stevensvilles could soon be out of its inventor’s hands.