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Making a local difference: State of play and challenges ahead for health and wellbeing boards

Health and wellbeing boards have the potential to make a significant difference at local level through developing a shared set of priorities, to focus commissioning plans and achieve better health outcomes. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (‘the Act’) places on upper-tier local authorities and unitary authorities a statutory duty to create a health and wellbeing board as a committee of the local authority (see ‘Health and wellbeing boards at a glance’ on p. 26). Local authorities and CCGs have statutory duties to develop Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies (JHWSs) to be discharged through the health and wellbeing board.

Together, these are intended to drive local commissioning priorities, policies and practice. They are the mechanisms by which boards and their partners will be able to jointly plan and support delivery of improvements to the health and wellbeing of local populations. Health and wellbeing boards also have a duty to encourage integrated working between the commissioners of any health, health-related or social care services in their local area.

In April 2013, after almost two years in shadow form, health and wellbeing boards became fully-fledged statutory bodies. Following this watershed for health and wellbeing boards, this report assesses the current state of play of their progress towards making a real difference to local health outcomes. After outlining the key support for health and wellbeing boards delivered through the National Learning Network, it identifies the main lessons that have emerged from this work to guide boards towards being fully effective. The report then identifies the critical challenges facing boards to maximise their effectiveness to make a significant and sustainable impact on local population health and wellbeing.