Byrne may rejig legal framework

The government is considering revising the legal framework for joint-working between health and social care in the forthcoming white paper.

Speaking before the National Social Services Conference, care services minister Liam Byrne said he would be asking delegates whether powers included in the Health Act 1999 were enough to promote integration.

These enable councils and primary care trusts to pool budgets, delegate commissioning functions to each other and set up jointly managed teams.

Byrne, who was due to speak to social services directors and Local Government Association leaders this morning (Thursday) about the white paper, said: “We need to know whether the powers are sufficient or whether we need to go further.”

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt was expected to tell the conference  that social care was “every bit as important as health” in delivering the government’s objectives.

She was planning to tell delegates that she favoured a joint white paper because social care and health were “so co-dependent”, and that there was no way that health would “swamp” social care.

The paper would be the “best chance for a generation” to make social care the major player in the government’s health and regeneration programmes, she was due to say.

Hewitt also announced this week that changes to the boundaries of primary care trusts would not start until April 2006. There is likely to be a three-month consultation from December after plans submitted by strategic health authorities have been considered by an external panel.

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