Headlines: December 8th, 2000

The formal merging of health and social services is one of the measures set out in the Health and Social Care Bill announced in the Queen’s speech. The Bill provides for setting up Care Trusts to operate in a similar way to Primary Care Trusts and NHS Trusts. They would offer a one-stop shop for seamless care, especially for the elderly, to include health, social care and other local authority related services, such as housing. There will be an element of compulsion giving the Secretary of State power to require a Care Trust to be set up, but only where services are failing. Otherwise, the formation of Care Trusts will be on a voluntary basisThe creation of a single organisational structure would remove the outdated institutional barriers between health and social services. There would be one set of aims and objectives and a single budget. The new legislation would only go part of the way in bringing the two services together and the problem of integrating the two cultures would remain to be solved at the workface.

The Bill also provides for setting up the Local Improvement Finance Trust (NHS LIFT). This is a public-private venture and NHS LIFT will be a limited company, working jointly with the private sector. The intention is to invest 175m pounds over 4 years into upgrading and building new primary care services. This will allow the refurbishment of up to 3,000 family doctors premises by 2004 in areas where it is traditionally hard to attract investment.