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Prevention in action: is it being prioritised?

Local authorities in England must do more in their local areas to provide services which prevent, reduce or delay the need for care and support. 

It has long been recognised that ‘prevention is better than cure’. But the UK’s health and social care system has historically focused on reacting to crises rather than preventing them.

The introduction of the Care Act in April 2015 sought to change this. It placed a new duty on English councils to make sure preventative services were available locally.

However, our research suggests that the Care Act’s vision for prevention is not being fully realised.

While local authorities have made efforts to implement preventative services, the report highlights a disappointing lack of understanding, innovation and development in prevention on the whole across England.

This includes a misunderstanding of the term ‘prevention’ itself despite the Care Act’s attempt to provide a clear triple-definition. Without a proper understanding of the duties required, local authorities cannot hope to provide effective services.

This lack of progress has its roots in a number of factors. Our report aims to help decision makers make the transition to better preventative care. It provides a national picture of local developments and highlights areas of good practice.

Key recommendations

  • Local authorities should implement the full ambition of the Care Act’s prevention duties.
  • The government should look again at what resources are required to enable local authorities to implement these new duties in a meaningful way. 
  • Every Health and Wellbeing Board and Sustainability Transformation partnership should fully incorporate and prioritise prevention in their joint health and wellbeing strategies.
  • Decision-makers across health and social care should recognise that prevention is about more than just stopping a condition or illness arising. It is about preventing, reducing and delaying needs and associated costs.
  • Decision-makers across health and social care should use the Care Act’s triple definition of prevention as the basis of their preventative planning.

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