New health minister Norman Lamb MP has said the health reforms will provide the basis for more integrated care and that the NHS should 'embrace' new insurgents into the market to overcome monopoly complacency.
In his first public speech today as Minister of State for Care and Support, Mr Lamb, told a conference on health and wellbeing boards at the King's Fund that despite his initial concerns about the pace of the reforms, he believed they would form the basis for more integrated care.
Mr Lamb, appointed minister just a week ago in the cabinet reshuffle, said: 'At the time of the debate over the health bill last year, one of the main charges that were made against the reforms was that it would lead to a fragmentation of care. And I thought, hang on a minute, fragmentation is almost built into the system that has developed over the years. We have health care divided away from social care, we have primary and secondary care often not nearly well-enough linked together and we have mental health and physical health care institutionally separated, often not working well enough together. And actually the irony of it is that these reforms, not enough on their own, but they provide a basis for a fundamental shift towards an integrated care model.'
Conference chair, Professor Chris Ham, the chief executive of the King's Fund asked Mr Lamb whether it was possible to have choice and competition while at the same time having a focus on collaboration and integration.
Mr Lamb, responded: 'I do actually. I'm not a great fan of monopolies in either the public or private sector. I think that if there's never any challenge to a service that is being provided, there is a danger that it can become complacent. And I think critically, how do we find innovation? How do we find ways of making the money go further?
He added: 'Innovation doesn't always come from a monopoly provider, it comes from new insurgents with bright ideas about how to provide the service. And I think we need to embrace that and I don't see there is any inconsistency with that at all with how care is provided and the absolute importance of integrated care as the model. It's what you commission that counts.'
Mr Lamb added he wanted to see innovative payment systems across the health, care and housing sectors to improve integration.
Asked if it was legitimate for CCGs to invest in improved housing because of the effect it can have on for example patients with asthma, Mr Lamb said the reforms allowed much more 'ambitious thinking' about what factors affect the long term health of a community. He said needs would vary area-to-area and the challenge ahead was to measure improvements brought about by new interventions.