Rubber stamp for health deal

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

WIGAN’S council leader hailed a “defining moment” for the region as a deal handing control over combined health budgets was confirmed.

With details of the “trailblazing” arrangement leaked earlier this week, a memorandum of understanding was signed yesterday in Manchester by chancellor George Osborne and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I want to make absolutely clear that this is not, as it has been wrongly portrayed in some quarters, a town hall takeover of Greater Manchester’s NHS budget

Lord Smith

It will see NHS England hand funding decisions to a new “umbrella” health and social care board overseen by GM’s new mayor.

The new board, working alongside local CCGs, will have control over public health, social care, GP services and community and mental health care for the first time, from April 2016.

These services are currently run separately between CCGs, town halls and NHS England.

Lord Smith, leader of Wigan Council and chair of the GM combined authority, said: “This is another defining moment in Greater Manchester’s devolution journey. The scope and nature of this unprecedented agreement means we are proudly breaking new ground once more.

“I want to make absolutely clear that this is not, as it has been wrongly portrayed in some quarters, a town hall takeover of Greater Manchester’s NHS budget. We will be working together with our NHS colleagues in the region to make joint decisions which reflect local priorities.

“Ultimately this will be via a new strategic health and social care partnership board. This is about decisions about Greater Manchester being taken in Greater Manchester in an integrated way, not being taken away from experts.”

The deal has not received universal acceptance though with shadow health secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham saying it could cause a two-tier system and “challenge the notion of a national health service.” The control of budgets will be handed over by next year. But with the deal not affecting Healthier Together reforms, Wigan Infirmary still faces receiving “non-specialist” status as part of a major shake up in the region.