Labour will integrate health and social care funding, conference told
By Richard Johnstone in Manchester | 3 October 2012
Labour would create a ‘one budget’ health and social care system to ensure better integration between the different types of care, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said today.
Speaking at the annual conference in Manchester, he said the party was considering ‘all options’ to achieve an integrated system, including a formal merger of NHS health provision and councils’ social care.
Burnham also vowed to repeal the controversial Health and Social Care Act, which he said was leading to ‘privatisation at a pace and scale never seen before’.
He added: ‘Markets deliver fragmentation [but] the future demands integration. As we get older, our needs become a mix of the social, mental and physical. But, today, we meet them through three separate, fragmented systems. In this century of the ageing society, that won’t do.’
Change was essential to avoid older people ‘falling between the gaps’ of different systems. ‘Our hospitals are simply not geared to meet people’s social or mental care needs. They can take too much of a production-line approach, seeing the isolated problem – the stroke, the broken hip – but not the whole person behind it.
'If we don’t change that, we won’t deliver the care people need in an era when there’s less money around. We can get better results for people if we think of one budget, one system caring for the whole person – with councils and the NHS working closely together.’
He also promised that a Labour government would produce a ‘national entitlement’ to physical, mental and social care so people know which services were free at the point of use and which had to be paid for.
However, the speech didn't mention the recommendations from the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot, which called for care costs to be capped last year.
The government has said it backs the proposals, but has delayed a decision on how to fund the estimated £1.7bn cost until the next Spending Review.
Speaking to delegates, Burnham also said the last Labour government had ‘at times... let the market in too far’ through private sector firms being used in the NHS.
But the coalition’s reforms to the health service, which are intended to introduce more choice and competition, were leading to ‘a forced privatisation ordered from the top’, he stated. ‘To all patients and staff worried about the future, hear me today: the next Labour government will repeal Cameron’s Act.’
Burnham also admitted that some of the Private Finance Initiative deals signed by the previous administration did not always represent good value for taxpayers. ‘While we rebuilt the crumbling, damp hospitals we inherited, providing world-class facilities for patients and staff, some PFI deals were poor value for money,’ he said.