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Health and Care Bill 2021 - a statutory duty on the NHS to have regard to carers and to promote their health and wellbeing

Carers UK is calling for the NHS to be given new legal responsibilities towards unpaid carers.

Please sign up here if you wish to support our campaign.

Despite the essential role of unpaid carers in supporting our NHS and social care systems, there was no explicit mention of unpaid carers in the White Paper proposals for the Bill. Carers UK has written to Government to express its deep concern at this omission.

Not only do carers deserve to be recognised for the important support they provide, but the aims for integration between health and social care systems can only work if unpaid carers are visible, recognised and counted as part of the NHS.

That’s why we are calling for carers to be a clear part of the reforms that are being proposed by Government, and for carers to be explicitly referenced in the future legislation.  

In the forthcoming Bill we are calling for:

  • A duty on the NHS to have regard to carers and to promote their health and wellbeing.
  • Clear and explicit references to carers where there are duties for new or existing bodies to consult patients and the community.
  • A carer representative on key decision-making bodies.
  • Clear inclusion of carers in the Care Quality Commission’s proposed new responsibilities around the Care Act 2014.
  • Explicit safeguards for carers’ rights under the Care Act 2014, if the requirements for assessment and discharge notices are removed.

This Bill presents an opportunity to acknowledge the role of carers in supporting our health and social care systems and provide support for them to look after themselves and the person they care for.

We will be working to achieve the above goals and we would like to have as many organisations as possible to support our campaign. 

Please sign up here if you wish to support our campaign.

For more information, please see our detailed briefing on the White Paper.

Progress update – May 2021

Carers UK recently submitted evidence to the Health and Care Select Committee, who ran an inquiry focussed on the White Paper and future Health and Care Bill.

Our evidence was raised by the Committee when the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was questioned, and the Chair of the Committee, Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, also wrote to the Secretary of State on behalf the Committee about unpaid carers. The response from the Secretary of State said that unpaid carers would be considered in the Bill, and that some areas would appear in guidance. We welcomed this recognition from the Secretary of State, but will continue to press for the main provisions to be included in the Bill.

The Health and Social Care Committee also recently published its first report on the government’s proposals, and we were delighted to see that they had included all of our recommendations. Specifically, the report said:

  • ‘It is deeply concerning the White Paper does not mention unpaid carers…the NHS should have a responsibility to have regard to carers and to promote their health and wellbeing.... this should be included in the Bill'.
  • ‘…that provisions to protect carers’ rights on discharge [should] also be included in the Bill’.
  • ‘…that a duty be placed on ICS boards to ensure that carers have representation’.

Of course there is no guarantee that the government will adopt any of these measures, but we will continue to press the case for carers’ inclusion. After the past 18 months, there is more evidence than ever that carers need to be included.   

We do not yet know when the Health and Care Bill will be published, but we will provide updates and detailed analysis of the Bill, as soon as it is published.

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