The King's Fund comments on the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill

Commenting on today's publication of the Health and Social Care Bill, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King's Fund, said:

'The publication of the Health and Social Care Bill signals the biggest shake-up of the NHS since its inception.

'The last decade has seen significant progress in the performance of the NHS. While ministers are right to stress the need for reform to make it truly world class, these gains are at risk from the combination of the funding squeeze and the speed and scale of the reforms as currently planned.

'GPs are well placed to understand the needs of their patients, so giving them a leading role in commissioning services makes sense. Strengthening the link between clinical and financial decision-making could lead to improvements in patient care and could make services more efficient.

'But, while the government's reforms have the potential to improve the NHS, they will be implemented against the backdrop of the biggest financial challenge in its history. Finding the £20 billion in efficiency savings needed to maintain services must be the overriding priority, so the very real risk that the speed and scale of the reforms could destabilise the NHS and undermine care must be actively managed.

'This means adopting a flexible approach to implementing the reforms. The real choice is not between stability and change, but between reforms that are well executed and deliver results for patients, and reforms that are poorly planned and risk undermining the NHS. We hope this will be uppermost in the minds of MPs and peers as they debate the Bill over the coming weeks.'

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The King's Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.