Speaking in the House of Commons Mr Hancock praised the NHS for its work in the past year, describing it as “the most challenging in its proud 72 year history”. He said the proposals for the major shake-up reflected the health service’s battle against the pandemic.
He announced radical proposals to integrate the health service and social care, slash bureaucracy and make the NHS more accountable to Parliament in the biggest reform of its kind since 2010.
The Health Secretary explained that although the UK was still battling Covid, now was the right time to set out plans for reform as part of the Government’s “build back better” scheme.
He said after the pandemic it was important to “build a better, stronger NHS”.
The proposals will sweep away much of the framework set in place when David Cameron was Prime Minister.
The shake-up will see the law changed to reverse reforms of the NHS in England introduced by former health secretary Andrew Lansley in 2012.
Outlining the plans to MPs this morning, Mr Hancock said: “At its heart, this White Paper enables greater integration, reduces bureaucracy and supports the way that the NHS and social care work when they work at their best together.
“It strengthens accountability to this House and, crucially, it takes the lessons we have learnt in this pandemic of how the system can rise to meet huge challenges and frames a legislative basis to support that effort.
“My job as Health Secretary is to make the system work for those who work in the system – to free up, to empower, to harness the mission-driven capability of ‘team health and care’ – and the goal of this White Paper is to allow that to happen.”
Mr Hancock said “there is no better time than now” to carry out social care reform.
He told the House: “The response to Covid-19 has, in my view, accelerated the pace of collaboration across health and social care, showing what we can do when we work together flexibly, adopting new technology focused on the needs of the patient and setting aside bureaucratic rules.”
Under the proposals the Health Secretary will have more power to set objectives for NHS England, and will be able to intervene when local services are being reconfigured, such as the closure of hospitals.
According to the White Paper, reforms will also be made to “help tackle obesity by introducing further restrictions on the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar foods; as well as a new power for ministers to alter certain food labelling requirements.”
Responding to Mr Hancock’s statement, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Staff on the front line are exhausted, underpaid. The Royal College of Nurses says the NHS is on its knees.
“Primary care and CCG staff are vaccinating and will be doing so for months ahead, including possibly delivering booster jabs in the autumn. And today we learn that 224,000 people are waiting over 12 months for treatment.
“And this Secretary of State thinks this is the right moment for a structural reorganisation of the NHS.
“Now we will study the legislation carefully when published but the test of his reorganisation will be whether it brings waiting lists and times down, widens access, especially for mental health care, drives up cancer survival rates and improves population health.”
However, the plans have been endorsed by Mr Hancock’s predecessor and current chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt said: “It is a very big deal to do a structural reorganisation of the NHS and I know from my time as health secretary how distracting it can be.
“But it is nonetheless the right thing to do and a brave thing to do because NHS staff want nothing more than to be able to give joined up care – joined up between hospitals, GP surgeries, the social care system, community care – and the current structures make that more difficult than it should be.”
— to www.express.co.uk