Health secretary Andy Burnham has told MPs that the NHS and local government should stop applying rigid rules about which services they each pay for, in direct response to HSJ’s revelation that the NHS is expected to take greater responsibility for social care.
His comments came in response to a question in Parliament from Alistair Burt about HSJ’s story, which said a paper to be published by Mr Burnham on the future “vision” for health policy would include proposals to give the health service much greater involvement in social care.
On the same day the story was published on hsj.co.uk, the Conservative MP asked the health secretary whether he would “find” the NHS source quoted in HSJ’s story saying that a move towards towards greater control of social care by the NHS would be one way to “rip the guts out of” Tory-controlled councils.
Mr Burnham replied: “Some 1.3 million people work in the NHS, and I cannot be responsible for what all of them say at all times.”
Supporting the thrust of the story, he said: “It is my judgement that, whatever happens, more money from the health budget will have to be spent closer to the line with social care. That is the way things will have to go.”
He added: “We should also be less precious about spending health resources on equipment and telecare to help people live in their own homes… We have to break down the approach of the past that has said, ‘The health service pays for this and councils pay for that’ and we argue about the bit in the middle. We can no longer sustain that.”
The vision, considered a trailer for Labour’s manifesto commitments on health policy, is expected to emphasise the need for much closer integration of acute services, community services and social care.