Health white paper published today

Posted on July 12, 2010 by

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The Department of Health published a white paper on the NHS today Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS. This lays out government strategy for the NHS during this Parliamentary term – including policy and proposals for new legislation. The Government is not planning another long-term plan for the NHS in the next five years although a further white paper is intended to set out their programme for public health later this year. Many of the commitments made in this white paper will require primary legislation and are subject to Parliamentary approval i.e. bills will need to be brought before Parliament and debated before the measures can be implemented. A Health Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament in autumn 2010.

The proposals in this white paper include issues relevant to medical research. Comments on the proposals are invited by 5 October 2010.

Key documents

The publication of the white paper was announced in an oral statement to the House of Commons on 12 July

The Department of Health press release is here.

The white paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS is available here.

What the white paper says

The paper is set out across four main themes:

  • putting patients and the public first;
  • focusing on improvement in quality and healthcare outcomes;
  • autonomy, accountability and democratic legitimacy; and
  • cutting bureaucracy and improving efficiency.

Page 51 sets out the timetable for taking this forward. A Health Bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament in Autumn 2010.

Chapter 6 focuses on how the Department of Health intends to engage with external organisations to take this forward.

Government intends to consult on the NHS Constitution and draft regulations.

Comments on the implementation of the proposals in the white paper requiring primary legislation are invited. The deadline for these is 5 October 2010 and details of where to send them are given on page 50 of the white paper. The Department of Health will publish a response to these prior to the introduction of the Health Bill.

Key bits on medical research

The report includes several direct mentions of research in the NHS and covers some issues of concern to the medical research sector – I’ve pulled out some of the key paragraphs below:

The role of research in a new Public Health Service

We will set out our programme for public health in a White Paper later this year. The forthcoming Health Bill will support the creation of a new Public Health Service, to integrate and streamline existing health improvement and protection bodies and functions, including an increased emphasis on research, analysis and evaluation.

On the importance of patient involvement in research:

2.3 We want the principle of “shared decision-making” to become the norm: no decision about me without me. International evidence shows that involving patients in their care and treatment improves their health outcomes, boosts their satisfaction with services received, and increases not just their knowledge and understanding of their health status but also their adherence to a chosen treatment. It can also bring significant reductions in cost, as highlighted in the Wanless Report,  and in evidence from various programmes to improve the management of long-term conditions.  This is equally true of the partnership between patients and clinicians in research, where those institutions with strong participation in clinical trials tend to have better outcomes.

and as part of measures to extend choice:

Give patients more information on research studies that are relevant to them, and more scope to join in if they wish;

On the use of patient data for research:

2.13 We intend to make aggregate data available in a standard format to allow intermediaries to analyse and present it to patients in an easily understandable way. Making aggregated, anonymised data available to the university and research sectors also has the potential to suggest new areas of research through medical and scientific analysis. There will be safeguards to protect personally identifiable information. We will consider introducing a voluntary accreditation system, which will allow information intermediaries to apply for a kitemark to demonstrate to the public that they meet quality standards.

Commitment to the value of research as a core part of the NHS

Research

3.16 The Government is committed to the promotion and conduct of research as a core NHS role. Research is vital in providing the new knowledge needed to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities. Research is even more important when resources are under pressure – it identifies new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating disease. It is essential if we are to increase the quality and productivity of the NHS, and to support growth in the economy. A thriving life sciences industry is critical to the ability of the NHS to deliver world-class health outcomes. The Department will continue to promote the role of Biomedical Research Centres and Units, Academic Health Science Centres and Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, to develop research and to unlock synergies between research, education and patient care.

One of the roles of the new NHS Commissioning Board that will be established will be to:

promote involvement in research and the use of research evidence.  (4.11, page 31)

On streamlining the regulation of medical research

5.8 The Government will cut the bureaucracy involved in medical research. We have asked the Academy of Medical Sciences to conduct an independent review of the regulation and governance of medical research. In the light of this review we will consider the legislation affecting medical research, and the bureaucracy that flows from it, and bring forward plans for radical simplification.

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