Political parties outline their plans for the care services of the future

The government’s new five-year NHS improvement plan promises to
further integrate social services with health care bodies.

According to the plan, increasing the integration of social care
commissioning and provision with health care will improve client
satisfaction and make better use of resources.

The plan also outlines how new case management systems for
vulnerable older people currently being piloted by strategic health
authorities will be extended to all primary care trusts by 2008.

It confirms that community matrons will oversee case management for
the 250,000 patients with the most complex conditions (news, page
9, 10 June).

The plan emphasises the importance of preventive and rehabilitation
services in the community in reducing levels of hospital admissions
among those with long-term conditions and the chronically ill,
which in turn could reduce the number of delayed discharges.

Unveiling the plan at the NHS Confederation annual conference in
Birmingham last week, health secretary John Reid also pledged to
cut the incidence of suicide by 20 per cent over the next five
years as part of a wider programme to cut the death rates from
major diseases.

Following criticism that this would only benefit middle-class
people, Reid said: “You ought to have an aim and an objective that
the target is only satisfactory if it is across the board for all
social classes.”

Reid hinted that this would be a factor in the forthcoming white
paper on public health, Choosing Health. This will also set out
plans to tackle obesity, smoking and sexually transmitted diseases.

The main opposition parties slammed the plans but offered few new
ideas for patients needing community care.

Conservative party leader Michael Howard pledged to scrap waiting
lists altogether and also promised patients greater freedom in
their choice of health care.

The Liberal Democrats reiterated their pledge to introduce free
personal care for all and said they would offer a better deal for
people with long-term conditions.

“It makes sense to have local authorities commissioning health and
social services for the local community,” said Liberal Democrat
health spokesperson Paul Burstow. “This would allow agencies to
work together to fit the services to the needs of the individual.

“It would make local health services accountable to local people.”

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