Health plan that is made in wigan

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

A LOCAL MP made a landmark speech on national health policy which would see councils gain millions of pounds to fund care - and its central idea was made in Wigan.

Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Leigh MP Andy Burnham set out some of Labour’s plans for the future of the National Health Service (NHS) with a speech to the King’s Fund.

The centrepiece of the proposals is for the full integration of health and social care, with a single budget covering all their needs ranging from operations in hospital to activities for those suffering from dementia.

Mr Burnham also plans to hand over the majority of funding from the NHS to local authorities to take care of needs in the home and attending GPs surgeries, clinics and hospitals for minor appointments, leaving the central health service with a £25bn budget for specialised care and primary services and cutting funding to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) altogether.

Mr Burnham says he decided to introduce the plans following conversations with the leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, and discussions across the borough about how to co-ordinate services for patients in an era when money is tight.

Mr Burnham said: “When he created the original NHS Nye Bevan created a system which covered physical and mental needs, but not social needs. My aim is to introduce whole person care.

“Older people are struggling in hospitals because they are not geared up to deal with all of their needs and doesn’t look after the social aspect of their care. In an ageing society the time has come to extend this. I’ve been persuaded on this by Lord Smith’s thinking, and I also agree that local government should hold most of the budget for the whole thing.”

The new integrated budget would leave health and wellbeing boards as the primary bodies for decision making on care, with CCGs merely becoming an advisory service.

The emphasis under the plans will be to care for people in their own homes for as long as possible and within the community, and is particularly targeted at the elderly and those with disabilities.

Mr Burnham said: “The 21st century is asking questions of our 20th century health and care system that, in its current position, will never be able to answer to the public’s satisfaction.

“It is just not possible to disaggregate people’s needs and meet them through our three separate services, and nor is it financially sustainable. People desperately want co-ordination of care and a single point of contact.”

There is a precedent in Wigan for merging council and health services, after former chief executive Joyce Redfearn took on the role as boss of the local primary care trust in addition to her town hall duties in 2010, in a move which was seen as enabling joint working practices to be developed before the PCTs were replaced by CCGs.