Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has promised that social care will not be marginalised by the NHS in the forthcoming white paper on care services.
In a speech to the National Social Services Conference, she said the white paper, expected before the end of the year, “is the best chance for a generation to make social care the major player” in the government’s efforts to improve wellbeing.
Hewitt said the government wanted money released from acute health services to fund community health and social care through strong integrated commissioning by councils and primary care trusts.
However, she was made aware of the level of social care opposition to the government’s current reorganisation of PCTs, which could upset existing partnership working with councils.
Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for children and families Mary Douglas received a round of applause when she described the government’s many reorganisations of the NHS as repeatedly rebuilding a kitchen “while someone is trying to cook a meal”.
Hewitt tried to reassure her audience by saying proposals from strategic health authorities to reshape PCTs would be assessed by the DH according to their impact on partnership working and the level of consultation with councils.
She also said the DH would make a joint submission on health and social care to the 2007 spending review and suggested funding difficulties in social services, including on pay, could inform its approach.