The Head of the NHS in England has pledged to give local leaders and communities more control over how they improve health and social care to help seal up current fractures in the system that leave too many patients “passed from pillar to post”.

Stevens has announced nine areas in England covering some seven million people that are to lead nationwide action to provide joined up, better coordinated care by breaking down some of the barriers between GPs and hospitals, physical and mental healthcare, social care and the NHS.

Eight ‘accountable care systems’ (ACSs) will bring together local NHS organisations, often in partnership with social care services and the voluntary sector, building on early results of NHS England’s new care model ‘vanguards’, which the organisation claims are slowing emergency hospitalisations growth by up to two thirds compared with other less integrated parts of the country.

The first ACS’ have been tasked with delivering “fast track improvements” set out in Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View, including alleviating the pressures on A&E, and improving access to GPs as well as high quality cancer and mental health services.

They will also lead the way in taking more control over funding available to support transformation programmes - with the combined indicative potential to control around £450m of funding over the next four years - matched by accountability for improving the health and wellbeing of the populations they cover, Stevens said.

Also, a new devolution agreement in Surrey Heartlands, similar to the existing one in Greater Manchester, will marry the NHS locally with Surrey County Council to integrate health and social care services and “give local leaders and clinicians more control over services and funding.”

“Integrated care is more than just a buzz word - it’s a way of working. It’s how the NHS should operate because when you are dealing with people with long-term conditions, multiple long-term conditions, old people with frailty, they cannot afford the service to be disjointed,” said Tom Gentry from Age UK, commenting on the plans.