The health secretary has reiterated his opposition to forcing mergers between health and social care commissioners, ahead of the publication of a white paper on the issue.
HSJ understands the white paper on social care reform is now likely to be published next month. It is a further slip from a May publication date in the Department of Health’s Corporate Plan last week.
Campaigners for reform have criticised the government’s plan to only produce a draft bill in this Parliament – rather than to legislate. They are pessimistic about new funding being found for long term care. However, there is still hope the government will move to join health and social care budgets, which campaigners believe would be an improvement.
Andrew Lansley was asked about the issue at a conference held by think tank Reform on Wednesday. He said he recognised there had been calls – including from the Commons health committee, chaired by Stephen Dorrell – for health and social care to be “slammed together” to get them to “integrate more”.
However, Mr Lansley said it was not a solution. He said there was no “meeting of minds” about how the two commissioners could be joined, and highlighted that “the funding systems are different, the commissioning systems are different” between them.
He said: “What we have to do [instead] is incentivise alignment of commissioning activity and outcomes.” It indicates the white paper may point to clinical commissioners and councils being penalised under the outcomes and performance frameworks if they do not integrate.
Mr Dorrell told HSJ he agreed there was “no single organisational solution” to integration, but said new incentives were not sufficient. He called for the government to create “a sense of urgency” about it, and set out “how they are going to do it practically”.
The DH is planning to publish its draft social care reform bill soon after the white paper. HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle has reported it will include measures to tighten the regulation of social care providers and will legislate for all of the recommendations in the May 2011 Law Commission report on social care.
That report proposes setting minimum level of service councils should provide; giving them a duty to investigate adult protection cases; and encouraging consistent social care provision for individuals who move to different local authority areas.
LGC has also reported that DH officials are discussing plans to continue transferring funds from the NHS to social care in the next spending round, starting in 2015.