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Health and Social Care – Parliamentary Round Up – March 2011

Column by Ros Trinick which appeared in the March edition of the English Community Care Association (ECCA) member's newsletter

Reforming the NHS has been emphasised as a key priority for the Coalition and last month it moved the process one step further with the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Ministers hope the measures set out in the bill will revolutionise, modernise and reform the NHS, placing patients at the heart of everything it does, reducing bureaucracy and increasing accountability. Indeed modernisation, was described by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as a necessity not an option. Mr Lansley also stressed that the NHS must embrace competition from the private sector if it is to meet the future needs of the public.

Speaking at the Maximising Quality, Minimising Cost conference, Mr Lansley reiterated the Coalition Government’s desire to modernise the NHS, adding that it would spark what he described as ‘a race for quality, for excellence and efficiency.’

With cuts the order of the economic day, the Department of Health has bucked the trend in recent weeks with a number of multi-million pound investment announcements.

First up was the promise of £20 million to bolster trauma and microbiology research. The money is set to bring together both military and civilian trauma surgeons to share medical experience.

The department’s attention then turned to raising awareness of cancer and, as January gave way to February, Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow unveiled the first ever Government bowel cancer awareness campaign. ‘Be Clear on Cancer’, is set to be piloted in two regions before being rolled out across the country if successful.

Investment continued in February with Andrew Lansley teaming up with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Paul Burstow to pledge £400 million to help tackle the underlying causes of mental ill-health as part of the No health without mental health strategy. Nick Clegg emphasised the need to address mental health with the same urgency as physical health, insisting that the stigma attached to mental illness must be tackled.

Later in the month the announcement of the Health Visitors Implementation Plan set out plans to increase the number of Health Visitors to 4,200 by 2015. In addition to rejuvenating the system as a whole Health Minister, Anne Milton insisted that the increase in Health Visitors will give vital additional support.

The Department of Health also published ‘Enabling Excellence’ a new set of guidelines for regulating the activities of health and social care workers. Speaking at the launch, Andrew Lansley insisted that the new guidelines would serve to give greater independence to those working in the sector across the country.

And, finally Monitor, the independent regulators of Foundation Trusts, appointed David Bennett as a new chair. Mr Bennett has been interim chair for the last year and will lead the organisation as it moves to take on a new and expanded role.

So, having seen the government set out its stall to reform the NHS with the Health and Social Care Bill, it will be interesting to see what affect their proposals will have. Elsewhere the pledging of £400 million to tackle mental health issues and £20 million to bolster research in microbiology are very welcome developments in this time of austerity.

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