Andy Burnham: DH cannot force NHS to invest in prevention

The Department of Health will not direct NHS commissioners to invest in preventive services for older people, despite an evaluation of a DH early intervention programme showing it both saved money and improved quality of life.

However, health secretary Andy Burnham said ministers would be “disappointed” if NHS commissioners did not invest in the sort of services delivered through the Partnerships for Older People Projects (Popps) programme.

Burnham was speaking at the launch of the final evaluation report on Popps, which found that care spending on service users fell by £2,166 per person per year after using Popp services and that older people also reported better outcomes.

The £60m programme, funded from 2006-8 through partnerships of councils and PCTs, supported 470 projects in 29 areas. Over 70% were low-level services, such as handyman services, to help people maintain independence, while the others were targeted at pensioners at risk of hospital admissions.

The evaluation report said rolling out Popps required reform of financial systems across the NHS and local government so that cash released from the decommissioning of some services could be reinvested in more cost-effective projects.

The NHS is expected to make efficiency savings of between £15bn and £20bn from 2011-14. However, Burnham stressed that ministers could not force the pace of reform locally.

He said he hoped the Popps report would provide “confidence” to NHS commissioners to invest in prevention and said there was now a “momentum” for change in terms of joint working between local authorities and the NHS.

He added: “We think this is the year to forge on with making the change for the tough years that will follow.”

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