Grassroots legal challenges to so-called accountable care organisations having the power to run health and social care services could bring NHS reform crashing down
Unless you work in the NHS itself, or inhabit the health policy bubble of academics, thinktanks and staff groups, chances are the phrase “accountable care organisations” means little. If so, you would be forgiven for not knowing that ACOs, their acronym in NHS speak, and their close relation “accountable care systems”, are – in Simon Stevens’s view at least – the best way to save the health service from the otherwise unsquarable circle of rising demand and constrained funding.
Under NHS England’s plans, ACOs are supposed to bring together providers and commissioners of health and social care services who will then assume joint responsibility for the health of an entire area’s population. So far, eight areas have signed up to become ACOs although they are still only in nascent and shadow form. Stevens expects them to “deliver fast-track improvements”, such as fewer emergency hospitalisations and better care in people’s homes. Yet despite the scale of the change such a move envisages, so far ACOs have remained firmly under the radar, with minimal media coverage or public debate.
ACOs have no basis in law, yet are being lined up to be given power over budgets for an area of billions of pounds
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