Health and Social Care Policy Digest

July 2017

The post-election period brings with it a period of uncertainty, not least for health, housing and social care where major challenges include funding, preparing for winter pressures and the social care green paper.

Within the Department of Health those challenges will be faced by the four health ministers, reporting to secretary of state Jeremy Hunt. Their responsibilities include:


Philip Dunne:

• NHS operations and performance

• Patient safety

• Procurement


Lord O’Shaughnessy:

• Uptake of new drugs and medical technologies

• Life sciences industry

• Data and technology

• Academic health science centres


Steve Brine:

·         NHS transformation, including out-of-hospital care

·         primary care

·         prevention and early intervention


Jackie Doyle-Price:

·         care for the most vulnerable

·         mental health

·         adult social care

·         community care


So what do this month’s announcements tell us about the government’s priorities and the sort of pressures the new ministers will be under?

1. Tackling winter pressures & delayed transfers of care

This month Jeremy Hunt confirmed a further £20.7 million to help 27 hospitals in England tackle winter pressures. This follows an initial £56 million given to 70 hospitals in April.

As the minister responsible for NHS performance, Philip Dunne will need to get to grips with the recommendations of the 2016/17 winter review including action to tackle delayed transfers of care. While analysis shows that the NHS is responsible for most of the delayed transfers, issues with social care are a growing problem and the focus of much political attention.

On 5 July the Department of Health (DH) set out how local authorities should spend additional funding to help reduce delayed transfers of care. However, the Local Government Association (LGA) is not happy about the central directions on how councils should spend the funding available through the Better Care Fund plans. The LGA is not currently supporting the DH guidance.

The 151 Better Care Fund (BCF) plans are one of the major hopes for more integrated services and ‘pooled’ funding in England. There appears to be a renewed emphasis on this approach and certainly the earlier BCF plans included plenty of promising statements about the use of technology enabled care (TECS).

The deadline for the next iteration of the BCF plans is 11 September 2017 and TSA will be monitoring how TECS is being used across the country.

2.Speeding up the adoption of new drugs and medical technologies

The uptake of new drugs and medical technologies has long been an issue within the NHS. It is why the Academic Health Science Networks were set up and the motivation behind the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), published last autumn. It is now within the purview of Lord O’Shaughnessy.

This month the government announced new funding of up to £86 million to enable small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop and test new technologies in the NHS. This could include innovations such as digital technologies to help patients manage their conditions from home instead of a hospital, or new medicines.

Of the funding, £39 million will go to the AHSNs and £35m will match-fund the development of digital technologies for use by patients and the NHS through the Digital Health Technology Catalyst. Up to £12m will be split between SMEs to test medicines and devices in the real world and NHS organisations looking to integrate new technologies into everyday practice. 

3. Maintaining cyber security & data privacy

On 12 July 2017 the government announced that investment in data and cyber security would be boosted above the £50 million announced in the spending review.

The government has accepted the recommendations in both the National Data Guardian review and the Care Quality Commission review. A new report, Your Data: Better Security, Better Choice, Better Care, announces that stronger sanctions will be introduced by May 2018 to protect anonymised data, including severe penalties for negligent or deliberate re-identification of individuals. It also announces plans to give patients and the public more access to, and control over, their personal data

From September 2017, the CQC’s inspection framework will include the importance of meeting the data security standards. This will be supported by information from a redesigned information governance toolkit.


4. Improving Social Care & and access to technologies

July also saw the publication of the CQC state of the sector report for adult social care in England. Based on inspections between 2014 and 2017, the report found that while almost four out of five services were rated good or outstanding, nearly a fifth required improvement and 2% (343 locations) were rated inadequate.

At ministerial level, social care is the responsibility of Jackie Doyle-Price, with local authorities on the frontline.


Sixteen local councils have recently been awarded up to £50,000 via the LGA with funding from NHS Digital for projects that use digital technology to transform and improve social care, for example by enabling people to interact with care services through digital channels.

Central and local government will now, perhaps, be focused on achieving the principles and goals laid out in a new report from a number of organisations which have come together under the banner Quality Matters.

Quality Matters attempts to unite the sector in support of high quality, safe, effective, sustainably resourced, person centred care. These principles are echoed in TSA’s white paper, Putting People First, and are at the heart of our new Quality Standards Framework and our partnership with ORCHA to identify the safest, most effective apps.

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