Shadow secretary Andy Burnham has warned plans to devolve £6bn of health and social care funding to Greater Manchester could mean “another reorganisation”.

Burnham said the “principle behind the devolution plans is a good one” but that it “sounds like another reorganisation” and he raised concerns about different areas getting different powers and freedoms.

Andy Burnham

There are problems with the proposal, Andy Burnham said

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Burnham said: “So yes, in principle [this is a good idea], but this isn’t the way I would do it.

“And I think there are a couple of problems with what they are proposing. First is that this sounds like yet another reorganisation. Now I have said I would work through the organisations I inherit, the ones that were created by the last reorganisation.

“As I understand it, this one will create a new layer in the NHS at Greater Manchester level, and I am not sure that’s the right thing to do.”

He added that it was “worrying that it might cause a two-tier service then”. “You might have a local NHS operating differently from other parts of the country, and therefore it might start to challenge the notion of a national health service,” he added.   

Mr Burnham’s comments follow radical plans emerging for Greater Manchester to take control of £6bn of health and social care spending.

Other senior health figures have also raised concerns about the potential for the plans to become a major structural reorganisation.

Sir John Oldham, whose report on “whole person care” underpins much of Labour’s NHS policy, told HSJ he supported the principle of the devolved plans but it would “have the feel of a big restructure”.

He said: “I don’t disagree with the direction of travel in principle, but this is quite a bold leap in one go.

“I would have put in an interim step to get the partnership board to form a joint commissioning plan that would be inacted by the existing commissioners rather than changing the commissioning arrangements in such a short timescale.

“I am worried that this will have the feel of a big restructure. That said, our report [One person, one team, one system, published by the Oldham Commission] was clear that if people want to move in this sort of direction, with local arrangements, we should enable that to happen.”

Sir John also warned data sharing constraints could “stop” the entire project.  

He said: “One thing which could stop this from working, unless the government sorts this out, is the current barriers to sharing data between health and social care.

“This could stop it in its tracks. This [projects stopped because of data sharing issues] has already happened with most of the progressive sites [trialing] integrated care models in England.

“The Health Research Authority [which hosts the confidentiality advisory group which passes judgment on the sharing of heath data] is not the right place for these sort of decisions to be made, in my view.”

A draft memorandum of understanding between NHS England and the conurbation’s local authorities and clinical commissioning groups sets out plans to put the Greater Manchester Strategic Health and Social Care Partnership Board on a statutory footing by the end of 2015-16.