‘Integrated care’ set to be a system of austerity and crisis

Following the passage through Parliament of the Health and Care Bill, 42 Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) are set to become the statutory bodies controlling health care systems across England from July 1 – and almost all of those for which figures are available are already projecting substantial deficits in their first year in charge.

This brings them into conflict with guidance from NHS England, which was revealed back in March by the Health Service Journal, which reported “Every health and care system — including those carrying huge deficits going into the pandemic — will be told to deliver financial balance in 2022-23.”

The HSJ quoted from draft guidance circulated to local leaders which set out a hard line and attempted to crack the disciplinary whip:

“NHS England and NHS Improvement intend to use additional powers in the legislation to set a financial objective for each integrated care board [the local commissioning body] and its partner trusts to deliver a financially balanced system, namely a duty on break even.”

But as the HSJ report commented “it is unclear what the consequences will be for an ICS that fails to meet what is described as a “new joint legal duty”.

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 May 2022