Integrated care provider (ICP) contracts will be managed by public NHS bodies not by private providers, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Speaking in front of the Health and Social Care Committee last week, Mr Hancock confirmed that, following the committee’s recommendations published last summer, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has decided that only public bodies will be able to hold ICP contracts.
There has previously been ambiguity and controversy around the issue of who would be able to hold ICP contracts, with campaign groups fearing that allowing private providers to hold them would mean taking a step towards the privatisation of the NHS.
Mr Hancock said: ‘I am going to be much more concrete. There is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch, and the integrated care contracts will go to public sector bodies to deliver the NHS in public hands.’
His statement to the committee came after NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was earlier during the session asked if there will still be a role for non-NHS bodies in delivering NHS care.
Mr Stevens said that ‘we should not retreat from the idea’ that patients should still be able to choose the type of care they can receive, as they have been used to this for more than 10 years.
Seeming to not fully confirm that ICP contracts should exclusively be held by NHS providers, Mr Stevens added that ‘we are suggesting that the integrated care should be from public providers’.
The DHSC and NHS England confirmation that ICPs will be held by public providers comes after the long term plan, published in January, also used less definitive wording on the topic than Mr Hancock.
The plan stated that ‘we expect that ICP contracts would be held by public statutory providers’.
What is the ICP contract?
NHS England’s Draft ICP Contract: a Consultation – published in August 2018 – defines ICPs as ‘a single contract through which general practice, wider NHS and in some cases, some local authority services can be commissioned from a “lead” provider organisation, responsible for delivering integration of services’.
NHS England launched a consultation on the ICP contract last year and it is currently analysing feedback.
The DHSC also consulted on potential regulations to enable the ICP contract in 2017, when ICPs were still known as accountable care organisations (ACOs).
In response to the consultation, the DHSC said ‘that secondary legislation was needed’ and that they were expecting NHS bodies to own the contracts’, according to a DHSC spokesperson.
The controversial contracts last year resulted in two judicial reviews against the creation of ACOs. These were, however, won by NHS England.