NHS staff will back further reorganisation of the NHS by a Labour government because their “hearts and minds” are behind the party’s plans for integration of the health and social care systems, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said.
Addressing a fringe event at the Labour Party conference Mr Burnham revealed 25 councils had already agreed to be Labour’s “whole person care innovation councils”. Whole person care is how Labour has been describing its plans for the integration of physical and mental health services and social care at conference. Mr Burnham told delegates not all of the councils were Labour.
Responding to suggestions that there was little appetite for further big structural changes in the NHS following the recent reforms, Mr Burnham said: “Andrew Lansley… was asking the system to do something it didn’t want to do.
“The difference between that and my [integration] agenda is everyone’s aching to go in that direction. People want to do this… The hearts and minds would be with it.”
However, Mr Burnham’s comments came a day after he told another fringe event that his plans for changing commissioning were not “another reorganisation”.
Mr Burnham reiterated his previous comments that a Labour government would repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. However, he also told delegates they would “keep the organisations we inherit but ask them to do a different job” and allow areas to “go at their own pace”.
Asked to clarify these apparently contradictory positions Mr Burnham said a Repeal Act could carry forward the clause that created health and wellbeing boards but would contain new “rules of the game” removing the “architecture of the market.”
Mr Burnham is due to address the conference today, when party members will be asked to endorse the policy.
In his opening address to the fringe event Mr Burnham said adopting the policy was an “incredibly important moment for this party” and was “not about what system we want but what kind of society we want”.
Referring to William Beveridge’s “five giants” – the social ills the liberal politician sought to address in his blueprint for the welfare state – Mr Burnham said: “If we just leave things as they are, the 21st century is about to add a sixth social ill and it is fear of old age. I think that’s where we are heading.”
He was scathing about the current quality of social care, blaming “a failure of governments of all colours to invest” for a “malnourished, minimum waged, zero hours social care system”.
Asked by a clinician in the audience how a Labour government would pay for an improved quality, integrated system, Mr Burnham said there was a “minimalist and a maximalist” way of introducing integration.
He told delegates a Labour government would start with the minimalist approach of “just integrating what we already spend” and that there were plenty of savings to be made.