A Labour government would view health and social care as a single budget and would support NHS money being spent on care services, the shadow health secretary has revealed.

  • Andy Burnham says Labour will protect social care funding “as best we can”
  • It is “fine” for health resources to be spent on social care, he says
  • Manifesto confirms commitment to introduce “year of care tariffs”

In an interview with HSJ and sister title Local Government Chronicle, following the launch of Labour’s general election manifesto this morning, Andy Burnham also pledged the party would protect funding for social care “as best we can”. He said Labour’s commitment to provide up to £2.5bn extra money every year for the NHS should be considered as extra money for health and social care.

However, he acknowledged that while Labour had a “clear plan” for NHS spending if it formed a government after the election, there would not be a spending settlement for social care until the comprehensive spending review planned for the summer.

Asked whether he wanted to see the social care budget ringfenced, he said: “I start from the point of view we are thinking about a single budget and as best we can the social care budget is protected, obviously I can’t prejudge those decisions [of the comprehensive spending review].

“The argument I need to make is that we need to get the best possible deal we can for social care and then start to consider it as a single budget alongside the NHS, and then the £2.5bn comes into an integrated budget.”

Andy Burnham

‘We are thinking about a single budget,’ Andy Burnham said

He added: “If more and more health resources are spent on what might have been considered to be social care interventions then that’s fine. These kind of distinctions are no longer valid.”

The party’s manifesto confirms a commitment to introduce “year of care tariffs” under which NHS providers are paid a set amount for providing care for individuals within a particular patient cohort. The tariff is designed to incentivise providers to keep people out of hospital by delivering better services in people’s homes.

Mr Burnham said he hoped areas would move towards pooled budgets and then to introducing year of care. He said ultimately this would mean councils handing their social care budget to an NHS organisation which would then subcontract with social care providers. Local authorities and clinical commissioning groups would work in a close partnership through the health and wellbeing board to oversee this.

He said: “Local areas will move at their own speed towards this but I believe the quicker that they embrace it the more they will put their health economies on a path towards clinical and financial sustainability…

“The way I see it developing is [clinical commissioning groups] and local authorities work hand in glove, so maybe the CCG being the executive to the non-executive of the [health and wellbeing board] signing off commissioning strategy.”

Mr Burnham also expressed support for a move towards place based budgets that consider all elements of public spending in an area. This approach was recently backed by the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance, which was set up by the Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy.

Mr Burnham said: “We won’t have answers of the scale that are required in the 21st century if we carry on running a narrow medical model of approach to policy and commissioning.

“It’s only when you start to link health policy with housing policy at a local level, for instance, that you are beginning to play on a bigger canvas and you’re beginning to open up the scope at local level for the imaginative solutions that are going to be needed to meet the levels of need out there.”

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