The Treasury is undertaking a quick turnaround project in the run up to the general election examining the potential savings from bringing together spending on health, social care and some welfare payments.

  • Treasury project is considering cost implications of joining health, social care and related welfare spending
  • Also looking at non-state contribution by third sector and carers
  • May be used to inform the next government, as all parties propose greater integration

The “HMT health and social care cost pilot” will also examine the financial value of non-state contributions from unpaid carers and the third sector, HSJ has learned.

The nine week project will finish this month, shortly before the 7 May general election, according to several sources involved with the project.

Treasury public spending officials are working with commissioners in Cornwall and north east Lincolnshire, which have advanced joint working arrangements with the third sector and between health and social care.

Officials from the communities and local government, and work and pensions departments are involved because the project is considering broadly defined health and care related spending in each geographical area, including some welfare and housing budgets.

Several of those involved told HSJ that while the aims of the work were not completely clear, they believed it was designed with the possibility of informing the next government’s decisions on public services spending.

One NHS source said the Treasury was “looking at integration and the potential next stage” with a view to “giving some options to the new government”.

However, it is understood the Treasury sees the main focus as improving the understanding of costs across different departments and agencies, and promoting joint working, rather than making policy recommendations.

It is thought the work has been instigated by officials, not the current government.

The costs linked to national bodies and regulators in each patch are also being considered, and representatives from NHS England, Monitor and other NHS oversight bodies are involved.

A separate source said the project asked: “Different budgets are being squeezed, so is there a benefit from thinking more broadly?”

It aimed to look at overlaps and gaps in spending, and “see whether there are any lessons to be learned if we are aware of all the different [resource] components and links between them”.

“These are the sorts of questions that are already being asked about public spending,” the source said.

The work is based on data analysis rather than any material changes, and there is no plan to estimate the scale of potential savings at national level.

Most political parties are proposing greater integration between health and social care in the run up to the election. Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has told HSJ the projected NHS funding gap of £8bn by 2020 may be smaller under its “fully integrated scenario” of joining health and social care budgets. However, health economists have said there is little evidence integrated care can reduce costs in the short term.

Separately, the NHS Five Year Forward View suggests possible benefits from “integrating, not only health and social care, but also other public services such as welfare, education and affordable housing”.

The Treasury confirmed the project was taking place.