The health and social care white paper, expected next week, will define how existing NHS resources can be poured into preventive services, care services minister Liam Byrne has confirmed.
He told Community Care that the Department of Health had listened to the concerns of social care leaders about resource constraints and their inability to release money to invest in prevention while continuing to care for those in acute need.
He said: “There will be a very strong emphasis on how we use the money in the NHS to increase the amount available for preventive services in England.”
Byrne said the white paper’s other main themes will include how people can gain greater control over their services – through individual budgets for instance – and how to forge closer integration between local government and primary care trusts. This will partly be achieved by joining up inspection and performance management and integrating electronic records systems.
Byrne said this process would be supported by the expected doubling in the proportion of PCTs sharing boundaries with top-tier local authorities, under NHS restructuring plans.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has moved to tackle criticisms of its lack of social care expertise by promising to appoint a board-level director with responsibility for the sector.
Byrne also confirmed that the DH would hire more social care policy officers, with policy-making for the sector aligned more closely with that of the NHS.
The move has been roundly welcomed by sector leaders, who have frequently bemoaned social care’s lack of clout, relative to health, in the DH.
The DH has promised to review “the support needed for social care” by the end of next month before making the board appointment.
Skills for Care chief executive Andrea Rowe said: “I think it means that they are taking seriously the fact that their social care expertise has been decimated before.”
Julie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said the decision would address a lack of social care capacity in the DH.
Currently, there is no board director exclusively overseeing social care, with chief medical officer Liam Donaldson and director of delivery John Bacon sharing the responsibility alongside their NHS duties.
The most senior social care officials are care services director Anthony Sheehan, who reports to Donaldson, and national director for social care Kathryn Hudson.