The Health and Care Bill was introduced to Parliament in July 2021 and came into legislation in July 2022. It placed Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) on a statutory footing.
ICSs are the structures through which NHS organisations, in partnership with local authorities, will take joint responsibility for improving the health and wellbeing of the population they serve, including children and young people. They will meet this local need through Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) and Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), that exist to design the strategies and plans for the region.
The Health Policy Influencing Group (HPIG) led the children’s sector’s activity on the Health and Care Bill, working with civil servants and parliamentarians to push for a greater focus on babies, children and young people in the legislation and supporting guidance.
Thankfully, following a powerful intervention by members of the House of Lords, the health needs of babies, children and young people were included in the primary legislation and further statutory guidance. Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) replaced Clinical Commissioning Groups across the country from 1 July 202. ICBs are required by the Act to set out the steps they will take to address the needs of children and young people under the age of 25 in their five-year forward plans. Children and young people are one of only two groups singled out by the primary legislation in this way.
Further positive changes included new statutory guidance, produced by NHS England, that required ICBs to nominate an executive children’s lead, responsible for ensuring the ICB sets out clearly the steps it will take to address the needs of those aged 0-25. ICBs will be required to consult with local leaders as they draw up their plans, and they should closely involve children and families themselves.
Finally, and crucially, ICBs are also required to report annually on how well they are delivering their duty to safeguard children. This is one of the single most important responsibilities that they hold and it will have to be delegated to an executive lead, as ICBs will be lead partners in local child safeguarding arrangements, together with the police and local authorities.
Taken together, we believe these steps put the needs of babies, children and young people at the heart of integrated health and care services. Through HPIG’s ICS Working Group, we are now working on monitoring the extent to which ICSs implement these requirements and are offering our support to ensure the health needs of babies, children and young people are met in practice.
You can find HPIG’s position statement and briefings for parliamentarians during the passing of the bill here.