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Health and wellbeing boards: policy and prospects

Richard Humphries (Senior Fellow, The King's Fund, London, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 8 February 2013




This paper aims to examine the role of health and wellbeing boards in the context of the Government's reforms introduced by the Health and Social Act 2012 and the fundamental challenges facing the NHS and local government; it also aims to assess evidence from the early experience of shadow boards and considers what factors will most influence their success.


The paper draws on an analysis of the policy literature and on structured telephone interviews with lead representatives of 50 health and wellbeing boards randomly selected from a representative cross section of English local authorities; it also draws on case study material, some of which has been written up for other articles in this Special Issue.


Early experience of the boards in shadow form indicates there is considerable optimism about their prospects to achieve greater success in achieving integrated services but they face formidable challenges arising from a hostile financial climate and unchanged national policy fault lines that have hindered effective integration to date. Poor engagement with providers will limit progress. Five factors that are likely to determine the effectiveness of boards are identified. Their biggest single challenge arises from the role of local government in delivering strong, credible and shared leadership which engages people in transforming local services.

Research limitations/implications

Current knowledge is based on the operation of shadow boards at a very early stage in their development and in the context of complex organisational change in which there is major uncertainty about emerging roles of new bodies.


There is very little systematic research evidence about the development of health and wellbeing boards other than the work reported in this paper, illustrated by the linked articles which follow it.



Humphries, R. (2013), "Health and wellbeing boards: policy and prospects", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 6-12.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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