The National Health Service (NHS) was setup by the government to provide healthcare for all residents of the UK and is funded by public taxes. This service is based on people’s need for healthcare instead of their ability to pay for it. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own separate NHS services.
The following guide will explain in simple terms how the NHS is structured, so you can better understand how to get the treatment that you or a member of your family need.
Department of Health and Its Authorities
The NHS is run by the Department of Health, which reports to the Secretary of State for Health.
In total, the Department of Health is responsible for NHS and social care delivery through the Strategic Health Authorities.
Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs)
These Authorities supervise the Trusts that run NHS services in their local areas. There are 10 of them in total and their responsibilities include developing as well as integrating plans to improve health services.
The main Trusts that the Health Authorities watch over are as follows:
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs)
These are your first port of call in providing care when you have a medical problem and need to visit a doctor. There are 152 Primary Care Trusts and they control 80 per cent of the NHS budget. PCTs make sure there are enough health services for people in their local area. In total, their services include providing hospitals, dentists, opticians, mental health services, screening, pharmacies, NHS walk-in centres and patient transport.
These Trusts have the responsibility of managing hospitals to ensure they’re of high quality and efficient at spending money. This can also include such services such as training health professionals at universities and providing health centres, clinics or care at home in local communities.
Hospital and Foundation Trusts
All in all, there are 290 NHS Hospital Trusts who oversee 1 600 NHS hospitals and specialist care centres.
Foundation Trusts, which total 83 at present, are a new form of NHS hospital specifically tailored to local needs.
There are 13 Ambulance Trusts in England, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have separate versions. These Trusts provide emergency access to health care – their emergency control room prioritises calls for an ambulance and decides what kind of response to send. They also provide transport for patients needing to get to hospital for treatment.
Care Trusts are a result of the NHS and local authorities agreeing to work in partnership to create a closer relationship between health and social care.
Mental Health Trusts
As per their title, these Trusts deliver health and social care services for people with mental health problems. These include health screening plus counselling and psychological therapies
Special Health Authorities
Unlike Strategic Health Authorities who focus on local services, the Special Health Authorities provide an NHS health service to the whole of England or the UK.
Their divisions include the following. Agencies:
Medicines, Healthcare Products and Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
The MHRA grants licences for medicines so they can be sold and regulates both medicines and medical devices in the UK to ensure they meet certain standards of safety, quality, performance and effectiveness.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
NICE provides national guidance on the prevention and treatment of poor health. It also creates the guidelines on whether or not certain treatments are available on the NHS in England and Wales.
National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA)
NPSA consists of three divisions that are specifically designed to help improve patient safety in the NHS throughout the UK.
Health Protection Agency (HPA)
The HPA has three centres which together protect the UK against infectious diseases and other dangers to public health such as chemical and radiation risks. This includes providing specialist training to help prepare emergency services nationwide for major incidents.