Government attempts to reassure local agencies over care trusts

The Department of Health has failed to
convince local government and the voluntary sector that care trusts
will remain truly voluntary partnerships and will not lead to an
NHS takeover.

Despite denials last week by the Department of
Health’s joint lead on care trusts, Carole Bell, that an NHS
takeover was “not the intention” behind the decision to base the
new trusts within the NHS, she failed to allay fears renewed by
recent comments from health secretary Alan Milburn.

“I keep worrying that care trusts are being
elevated into something they are certainly not,” said Local
Government Association head of social affairs, health and housing
John Ransford. “Care trusts are very important. The LGA are for
them where they work and where they are the best solution to local
issues. But we get worried when we hear the secretary of state
saying he wants to see care trusts in every area. We only want to
see it where it’s best for dealing with their issues.”

Ransford said users and voluntary
organisations representing users were worried that the DoH appeared
to have invented a new word, “healthandsocialcare”, which implied
they already saw the two systems as one.

“If the agenda is to take social care into
health, I wish someone would just say it so we can have an argument
about it,” Ransford said. “We do not want it to be done by

But, speaking at a London conference organised
by Harrogate Management Centre on the way forward for health and
social services, Bell insisted that care trusts must be seen within
a broad range of initiatives and agendas. “Despite all the
criticisms being levelled at us, what we aren’t doing is saying
there’s only one way of doing this,” she said.

She went on to remind delegates that, although
the power to impose compulsory care trusts had been lost during the
parliamentary process, the secretary of state still retained the
power to direct the use of partnership arrangements where services
were inadequate.

Bell said the care trust application process
ensured that only “the most robust proposals are coming forward”.
However, the number of demonstrator sites has fallen once more
following the decision by south east Hertfordshire to withdraw.

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