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ICBs take on pharmacy, dentistry and optometry

ICBs take on pharmacy, dentistry and optometry
By Jess Hacker
31 March 2023

Integrated care boards (ICBs) will this week take on commissioning responsibility for pharmacy, dentistry and optometry services in their footprints.

From tomorrow (1 April), NHS England will delegate the commissioning role for the three areas, with boards now able to design services and pathways specific to their local population’s needs.

In doing so, NHS England has previously explained, the local systems will have the power to better integrate services across care pathways and to improve continuity of care for patients.

In the south west, the regional NHS England has worked with the seven ICBs in its catchment to establish a Collaborative Commissioning Hub, which will see the hub’s staff work directly with the ICBs to commission services.

A spokesperson for Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICB said: ‘This change is a significant milestone towards our move to a system-based approach to improvement and stronger partnership working as set out in the NHS England operating framework.’

Elsewhere, South East London ICB said it has been working alongside the other London ICBs and NHS England since June 2022 to safely transfer the commissioning function from NHS England.

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICB has also worked with its neighbouring ICBs to work up a ‘safe delegation checklist’.

And in Derby and Derbyshire ICB, Clive Newman, director of primary care development, said: ‘From establishment, it has been set out that integrated care boards will assume delegated responsibility for the commissioning of pharmacy, optometry and dentistry in their geographic area from 1 April 2023. This is in addition to the existing arrangements with NHS England for delegation of general practice commissioning. The ICB is working both locally and regionally to ensure the efficient delegation of these commissioning arrangements.’

A handful of pilot ICBs – including Greater Manchester ICB and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West ICB – assumed commissioning responsibility last July, as they gained statutory footing.

The chair of the British Dental Association, Eddie Crouch, told Healthcare Leader there ‘couldn’t be a more difficult time to inherit a service which many describe as in crisis’.

In his analysis, he pointed to the troubles accessing dentistry as a key challenge facing ICBs in the transition.

And last month DHSC advisory Eye Health Forum member, David Hewlett, wrote that this is a chance to redesign eye care, and how it might work.

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