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For a long time lawyers and advisers on integration of health and social care have noted that no new legal powers or mechanisms were being made available to facilitate the drive towards integration.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, which came into force on 28 March 2016, provides a legal underpinning for the highly-publicised Devo Manc arrangement and other "Devo deals" under discussion with central government. It provides new wider powers for functions held by public or statutory bodies to be transferred to or shared with local government, including combined authorities.

The Act extends the rather bewildering array of options for sharing or delegating functions and pooling budgets between health bodies and local government:

  • It amends s7A of the NHS Act to enable combined authorities to take on public health functions
  • It amends s13Z of the NHS Act and adds in new sections 13ZA and 13ZB – which enable NHS England to delegate functions (including specialised commissioning) to a group of health and social care bodies, and for those bodies to pool budgets in relation to those functions;
  • It amends s14Z3A to allow CCGs to share functions and pool budgets with combined authorities; and
  • It provides that section 75 arrangements may now include combined authorities exercising health functions.

These add to existing powers for CCGs to share functions with NHS England (s14Z9) and for those bodies to pool budgets (s13V).

There are also provisions within this Act which allow for the complete transfer of functions from a public authority (say, NHS England or a CCG) to a combined authority or local authority, in the context of a formal devolution deal. The provisions also allow for joint or concurrent exercise of functions by sender and receiver.

For further information on the Act, please click here.