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What the Health and Social Care Act means for people with MS

Last week, the Health and Care Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament. The Bill set out significant changes to health and social care in England. It was first introduced last year and has been debated over the past few months. This means the changes in the Bill will now come into law. We want to let you know what these changes might mean for people with MS.  

The move to Integrated Care Systems 

The Health and Care Act means we will now see a change in how the NHS in England is organised. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) usually hold the budget for local NHS services. But these will be removed and replaced with Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). ICSs are local partnerships covering 42 geographical areas in England. ICSs are expected to start operating in July 2022.  

The aim of ICSs is to better join up health and social care based on the needs of their areas. This is a good opportunity to improve people’s experiences of health and social care. Bringing services together around the needs of a specific area means more can be done to offer people the support and care they need.  

What could ICSs mean for people with MS?

For people with MS, this could mean more services are delivered closer to home. And the services could be delivered while still being joined up with other treatments in centres or hospitals. This could be a good thing in general. But perhaps most valuable for people with MS with complex needs who rely on a number of different services (which have not always joined up well in the past).  

We think the move to ICSs is a positive thing. But we’re waiting for more details on how these changes will affect MS disease-modifying treatments (DMTs). In particular, we need more information on how DMT commissioning might change. 

Currently, DMTs are prescribed locally but funded at national level. The Act includes a power to move funding to local level. If this happens for DMTs without adequate safeguards, it could increase variation in access. We’re working with NHS England to make sure people with MS can access a good standard of care. And continue to get whatever drugs or treatments they may need.  

Changes to social care 

In December, we shared our concerns about the government’s proposed cap on social care costs. We were concerned it wasn’t as generous as it at first seemed. Under a measure in the government’s plan, most people with low or modest amounts of assets wouldn’t be protected by the cap. But wealthier people would. This is unfair on working age disabled adults as they're less likely to have had the chance to plan for needing social care support. Or to save for care costs. 

We worked hard with other charities including Mencap, Leonard Cheshire and Sense to challenge the proposed cap while the Bill was debated in Parliament. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, meaning individual payments instead of local authority contributions will count towards the social care cap.  

What are we doing?

While this is a very disappointing outcome, we were glad to help raise awareness of working aged disabled adults within social care. We hope this increased awareness will enable us to engage better with MPs in the future.  

We’ll continue working with other charities on social care to make sure the voices of people with MS are heard. The government's position on this issue is difficult to change now. But the ways changes to social care happen matter a lot. And addressing wider issues like workforce shortages and eligibility for care would make life for people with MS more positive. We’ll continue to engage with the government on these issues in the coming months. 

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We need your voice 

How do you think the new Health and Care Act will affect you and your family if you needed care? We'd like to hear your thoughts and experiences of social care. Please get in touch with us on [email protected] 

When we speak up together, we're stronger. Stay in touch about this campaign and all our others by joining the Campaigns Community. And we’ll keep you updated on future campaigning on social care and other issues.