What's new in the world of health and social care

Mon Mar 18 16:57:03 UTC 2013

Health and social care sector update

The current government has introduced a number of changes, some of which have an effect on the information you will be delivering to your learners. Here, Heather Higgins, the Senior Examining Standards Verifier, provides an insight into the relevant changes to support you in preparing your schemes of work and lesson plans.

The Equality Act 2010

This Act replaces much of the UK legislation on equality, diversity and rights. I'm outlining the points that are most relevant to health and social care delivery and management. (Please note that the Act does not apply in Northern Ireland).

The protected characteristics

The Equality Act 2010 offers protection to nine characteristics. These are:

  • age
  • race
  • sex
  • gender reassignment status
  • disability
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnership status
  • pregnancy and maternity.

Individuals within the above groups are entitled to health and social care that meets their needs. This may mean that the services must adapt provision, for example by providing:

  • additional toilets for service users undergoing gender reassignment
  • double accommodation in residential settings for same-sex couples
  • facilities for service users to practise their religion.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is charged, under the Equality Act 2010, with ensuring that the rights of all individuals within these groups are protected.

The Act also protects people who are at risk of discrimination by association or perception. This could include, for example, a carer who looks after a disabled person, or the relative of someone who has mental ill health.

The Equality Act 2010 is linked with the government’s Equality Strategy. The aims of this are:

  • changing culture and attitudes
  • tackling the causes of inequality
  • building a stronger, fairer and more cohesive society where equality is for everyone and is everyone’s responsibility.

Changes in the definition of disability

The Act provides a new definition of disability, which is,
‘A physical or mental impairment, that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’

Substantial’ is more than trivial; for example, taking longer than would be regarded as normal to complete personal care such as getting dressed.

Long term’ means twelve months or more; for example, diminished lung capacity as the result of contracting whooping cough.

Fluctuating or recurring conditions are to be regarded as long term if they cannot be prevented by taking reasonable steps such as changing the environment or avoiding triggers.

Conditions include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • myalgic encephalitis (ME)
  • chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • fibromyalgia
  • depression
  • epilepsy.

Addiction to substances - including medication, classified drugs and other substances - is not regarded as a disability under the Act.

There are some useful websites that will provide you with further information on human rights and equality.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012

This Act was introduced in order to modernise the NHS and manage provision in the current economic climate.

Key changes

GPs will commission services for their local area, supported by the NHS Commissioning Board. GPs will be able to choose how to spend the allotted budget on services, working in Clinical Commissioning Groups. These groups replace Primary Care Trusts, which will be removed in March 2013.

Other duties transferred from Primary Care Trusts include responsibility for public health, and certification of death (transferred to local authorities).

The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) will be monitored by the NHS Commissioning Board against the NHS Outcomes Framework.

There will be a focus on outcomes; in other words, GPs will be allowed to deliver care in ways that produce the best outcomes for service users. Service users will be offered greater choices of care and support, and greater opportunities for giving feedback on services received.

Changes to public health

Public Health England has been introduced and will:

  • oversee a nationwide, integrated health protection service
  • support scientific development in public health
  • support the development of a public health force
  • result in the closure of the Health Protection Agency.

Other changes include:

  • The closure of the General Social Care Council, in August 2012. 
  • Some of the Council’s functions have been transferred to the Health and Care Professionals Council.
  • The removal of Strategic Health Authorities; these have been replaced by the Independent NHS Commissioning Board.
  • Changes to the Mental Health Act 1983, including placing a duty on local authorities to commission independent mental health advocate services.

You may also find it useful to refer to the Department for Health website, and you'll find some useful teaching materials relating to the Equality Act 2010 on the health and social care community forum

I hope you have found this useful.


Kate Elsmore
Health & Social Care/Childcare Subject Advisor
E: TeachingHealthandSocialCare@pearson.com
E: TeachingChildcare@Pearson.com
You can also find me on Facebook

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