The Health and Social Care Act has received Royal Assent, meaning CCGs are set to be replaced by integrated care boards (ICBs) this summer.
Following the passing of the Bill into law yesterday (28 April), the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England have agreed for ICBs to formally take commissioning responsibilities from 1 July.
ICBs were initially intended to gain statutory footing from 1 April, but this was delayed by three months to ‘allow sufficient time’ for the remaining parliamentary stages of the Bill.
Across England, 42 ICBs have been set up already but are still operating as non-statutory bodies.
GP leaders had previously warned that the ‘vital expertise’ of GPs could be lost with the demise of CCGs. Just one GP is required to be appointed to each of the new boards.
Under the Act, which is aimed at boosting healthcare integration, budgets for general practice will be pooled with secondary care cash to create single funding pots – and new powers will make it easier to develop joint budgets with public health authorities.
The Government said the Act will also:
- Establish the Health Services Safety Investigations Body, an independent public body intended to investigate incidents of patient safety to help improve systems and practices;
- Improve data sharing between health and social care services in a bid to reduce unnecessary delays for patients;
- Reduce bureaucracy in the system, in a bid to improve care and free-up staff time;
- Address health disparities in oral health and obesity, with greater regulation of advertising for unhealthy food and drink; and
- Ensure transparency around the spending allocated to mental health support.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘As the NHS works flat out to recover services and address the Covid-19 backlogs that have inevitably built up during the pandemic, these reforms will accelerate the changes set out in the NHS Long Term Plan that are already giving people greater choice, better support and more joined up care when they need it.’
ICB chair designate for Nottingham Kathy McLean said: ‘By building on lessons learnt during the pandemic we will support our staff to make the impactful changes needed set out in the Long Term Plan.
‘This Bill ensures we can work together as a system to rebuild from the pandemic and tackle backlogs all while supporting each other for the benefit of our public.’
This comes days after MPs again rejected an amendment to the Bill mandating greater Government transparency on workforce numbers in the NHS.
The amendment, which would have ensured the Government published regular independent workforce reports, was voted through by the House of Lords last month and backed by around 100 organisations, including the NHS Confederation.
Last year, the DHSC said there was ‘no clear evidence’ that GP-led commissioning led to improvements.