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There has been a mixed reaction to the news that the city of Manchester will be in charge of its own health care budget as of April 2015. Dubbed to be one of the largest decentralisation exercises in the NHS, the ultimate aim is for a better health care service in Greater Manchester, but what do critics make of the new plans and how do they think it could affect medical care in the borough?
The government signed the devolution deal late last year in the first of its kind for Manchester to become a test subject for NHS devolution, where budgets are managed by individual councils. Since the news, there has been a division of opinion, predominantly, within the labour party between local MPs and Westminster MPs. Other commentators have also voiced their concerns and praise for the new proposals in almost equal measure.
The government says its aim is to rid the NHS of its cash crisis. Chancellor, George Osborne signed off the agreement last week stating his excitement at the prospect that the people of Greater Manchester will have more say in the decisions that will affect their lives and that it is a ‘historic day’ for the 2.7 million who live in Greater Manchester.
As well as economic gains from the plans, the new devolution arrangement proposes to address the aging population situation and the ensuing need for more health care at home, freeing up expensive hospital care. The joint budget will be shared by local councils and more people will be looked after at home and not in hospitals in the future.
Payment of healthcare and social services will not change though and social. In addition, all the standards within the NHS will remain the same, for example, waiting time specifications.
One of the aims of the new set up is a renewed emphasis on community work with a focus on combating heart conditions to ease pressure on hospitals. The new operation, which will consist of 10 councils, 12 clinical commissioning groups and 15 NHS providers, will also be in charge of regulation, finances and health education and the overall intention is for a more seamless approach to health care. The new and yet to be appointed Mayor of Manchester, could also have a strong say in what happens.
It is also part of the government’s plans to close the economic gap between north and south as well as to ease the pressure on hospitals in the long-term.
Despite the positive spin that has been put on the news, there are some people who remain sceptical. This includes Ms. Kelley who is MP for Worsley and Eccles South; she said that the problem is to do with existing budgets and that they have been passed a funding crisis. She said: “There are big gaps in social care, our hospitals are in deficit [and] that’s no way to do a proper job of integrating care, which is Labour’s policy – to integrate health and social care at the local level.” Other critics have remarked that the new changes could lead to more outsourcing and are possibly the first sign of the denationalisation of the NHS.
NHS England, Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, is positive about the new move and assured the people of the city that the NHS standards would remain the same. He said it is a landmark occasion and that it will allow the start of a new path to the greatest integration and devolution of care funding since the creation of the NHS in 1948,”. He added: “The eyes of the country will now be on what this new partnership can deliver and today the work begins.”
As we all know, the NHS has been under the cosh in many different areas for the last few years. There has been an avalanche of medical negligence cases in scandal hit hospitals while there has remained a steady but sure media interest in the allocation of NHS budgets throughout the whole of the UK. The real proof of the success of the devolved NHS budget will not be known for some years.
In an article written in the Guardian, Richard Vize, points out the complexity of the new system could be its downfall. He said that with so many different bodies involved, it is possible there are going to be issues with decision making and the introduction of a mayor in two years’ time could also signify future problems.
Ann Barnes, who is the CEO of the Stockport NHS Foundation Trust told the Manchester Evening News that the new development is important and exciting for the city. She said: “It is not about increasing power, but about increasing the health and prosperity of local people.” She continued: “So blaze a trail Manchester and show the rest of the country how it is done.”
Published on 27th March 2015.