The Health and Care Act 2022 (Formerly Introduced as the Social Care Bill)

With the recent pandemic, the health and social care sectors have been put under increased pressure to not only continue looking after those in need, but to attempt to limit the spread and impact of the Covid-19 virus as much as possible. While a number of systems have been developed and implemented designed to aid in this, the legislation and working practices of all services has also been reviewed, with some being replaced, and some being amended or updated to reflect the needs of those who use them. One of the main focuses is integrating the various different healthcare organisations so that they work together more effectively for the benefit of those under their care.

NHS England

The main aim of the act is to transform how NHS England is organised, with the focus being on improving health and care services while also tackling health inequalities by way of better health and care integration.

Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) have now been established, with the previous Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) being abolished. Most of the CCG’s functions will now be the responsibility of the ICBs, which includes NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC) and NHS Funded Nursing Care (FNC), as well as joint packages of care.

The ICBs are made up of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs). The ICBs will cover all health services that provide care, support and treatment, including GPs, community nurses and dentists, while the ICBs are practice-based, ensuring that commissioned services are of high-quality and reflect the needs of their local population.

Care Quality Commission (CQC)

CQC will now also be responsible for reviewing, assessing and reporting on local authority adult social care. These reviews will specifically focus on how well the local authority is meeting its legal obligations under the Care Act. They will also be responsible for reviewing the ICSs, and looking at how well partner organisations are integrating and working together.

Information Sharing and Data Gathering

The Act includes guidance of improving the quality, flow and collection of data across the health and social care sectors. It sets out how to share anonymised data between services, and how this information should be collected, stored and processed.

There is also a new requirement for NHS Digital to obtain a range of data from adult social care services relating to their activities and service users. This will ensure that the whole needs of a local population are analysed and understood, not just healthcare needs.

This is in addition to the already-required Digital Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) which is required to be carried out to ensure that all organisation handling personal information are doing so under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which are still in place following Brexit until alternative legislation has been passed.

Social Care Issues

A cap on care costs was first in place in the Care Act 2014, but the implementation of this was postponed. The Health and Care Act 2022 has amended the measures set out in the previous act, with new figures for how much a person should contribute towards their personal care in their lifetime.

The reforms were expected to be introduced in October 2023, but have now been postponed and are now expected to be introduced in October 2025.

Mandatory Learning Disability and Autism Training

The Health and Care Act 2022 amends the Health and Social Care Act 2008, and requires all health, care and support providers to provide their staff with learning disability and autism training, following a recent review. This has been introduced as an important part of reducing health inequalities for those groups of people.

A code of practice will be issued about the training, though most providers have already started introducing this as part of their mandatory training for their staff.