The shadow health secretary has said he opposes “GP control or domination of commissioning” because it is not “accountable” and compromises “the public interest”.
Andy Burnham was referring to GP-led clinical commissioning groups, which hold the majority of the NHS budget under the current government’s reforms, at a Health Hotel event at the Labour party conference on Monday.
He said his plans for changing commissioning were not “another reorganisation” and were “not a local government takeover, [but] a partnership. Health and wellbeing boards should be in the driving seat… looking at a population and deciding its needs.”
He has previously indicated local government should have control of NHS budgets, with CCGs advising them.
Mr Burnham said on Monday it was unclear how GP commissioners and NHS England were “accountable”.
“I don’t mind GP engagement in commissioning but I’m pretty clear that I don’t support GP control or domination of commissioning,” he said. “In the end I don’t think there is enough there to defend the public interest.”
Questioned on whether elected councillors would make the right decisions about health – such as backing service change – Mr Burnham said: “National government has got to learn to trust local government. We’ve got give [it] a proper role back.”
However, he said councils would need national politician to take responsibility for controversial decisions.
He said: “They are going to need some cover. The statement would come from me to say, ‘Expect your hospital to change and I am taking responsibility for that, because I am proposing whole person care, in the community. Blame me for that.’
“The time is coming when [we] need some concordat between the parties about changes to hospital services, [and] honesty about the rules of the game about using hospital reconfigurations in a very base way to gain votes. The health service is going to need to change,” Mr Burnham said.
Mr Burnham was expected to use his conference speech on Wednesday to win support from the Labour party for his proposal for “whole person care”, bringing together health and care funding and integrating provision.
A commission chaired by Sir John Oldham, looking into the detail of the policy, is expected to report to the shadow cabinet around the end of this year. Mr Burnham is still seeking agreement from party leadership to commit to state funding for long term social care, which he hopes to win over the next year.
He was also expected to use his conference speech to highlight accident and emergency performance, and reveal information indicating that increasing numbers of NHS providers are charging for services which their NHS commissioners have stopped funding.