It is a really good question and I think that, on its own, the legislation certainly has some potential to assist with that. Of course, there also need to be a number of other things and I can talk about those if that would be helpful.
The first positive thing to say about this legislation is that the idea of integrated care—the practice of providing care that actually links across between mental and physical health, NHS and social care, and prevention and treatment—undoubtedly is the way to go. I think we have a number of areas within the system where we know that people at the moment get very poor support for their mental and physical health, as a result of the lack of integration in the system.
Examples would be people who have both alcohol and mental health difficulties at the same time; people living with long-term physical illnesses, such as diabetes or kidney disease, who get really inadequate and often very poor emotional support, if indeed they have any emotional support at all; and, indeed, people living with long-term mental health conditions, whose physical health is very often very badly neglected, and they have very little support. Integrating care—actually doing that on the ground—and achieving a real change in the way that services are organised around people’s needs would undoubtedly make quite a significant difference and reduce some of those inequalities.
I think the way that the Bill and the various bits of guidance are written gives us some hope that that may happen; it certainly does not answer all of our questions about it. In and of itself, I think it is potentially a step in the right direction, but we need to give some thought to a number of caveats around that.