BIOS broadly welcomes the publication of the Government’s new White Paper on reforming the health and social care system in England, “Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all”.

The document sets out how the Government legislative plans, to be made through the Health and Care Bill, and it undoes many of the changes introduced through the Coalition Government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. In particular, there is a focus on moving away from competition and compulsory tendering towards more integrated care. The proposals also return accountability for the NHS to the secretary of state, who will also be given greater powers to intervene in local decision-making.

The main aims of the reforms are to:

  • Integrate care for everyone in England
  • Reduce bureaucracy and create flexibility
  • Improve accountability and enhance public confidence

We welcome the increased emphasis on integration and collaboration, and the increased powers being given to Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). It is vital that eyecare is included within the further development of these, to overcome the fragmentation and compartmentalism that that often characterises the provision of services currently. We would also emphasise the need for Allied Health Professional Leads at ICS level, to ensure that the views and expertise of this section of the workforce is represented in the design and delivery of services.

However, there is a continued need for increased investment to counter significant ongoing workforce issues. The announcement has been made at a time when our members, like staff across the NHS, are under unprecedented levels of pressure to maintain already hugely stretched services. The Government should therefore consider how these changes can be implemented to avoid adding unnecessary pressure when staff already face a huge task in dealing with backlogs within their services.

If you are interested in finding out more:

  • Read the full white paper here.