Key back-bench Tory urges full health and social care merger

Former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell (left) called for provisions to fully integrate health and adult social care to be incorporated into the government's health reforms.

An influential Tory MP has called for provisions to fully integrate health and adult social care to be incorporated into the government’s health reforms, to achieve “large-scale efficiency savings”.

Ending the “increasingly absurd” divide between health and adult care was necessary to give people with long-term conditions the integrated care they needed, said Stephen Dorrell, chair of the House of Commons health select committee.

“TheHealth and Social Care Bill is an opportunity to grasp the issue,” he wrote in an article for The Times. “A clear commitment should be written into the bill to achieve full institutional and managerial integration of the NHS and adult social care in England.”

The former health secretary said the move made sense at a time of tight resources because people with long-term conditions accounted for three-quarters of NHS spending and almost all adult social care spending.

It would give the NHS a chance of delivering on 4% efficiency targets over the next four years – something that has never been achieved by any healthcare system anywhere in the world. The targets are necessary to tackle rising demand for health at a time of flat resources.

“For a generation the elephant in the room in discussions about integrated care has been the artificial distinction between healthcare and social care. Those (including me) who have sought to defend the distinction have sounded increasingly absurd and out of touch.”

His intervention comes with the government having instituted a “pause” in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill to listen to critics of the reforms.

In a key speech today, prime minister David Cameron will defend the reforms but set out areas in which the government may concede ground to its opponents, who include the medical professions, Labour and many Liberal Democrat MPs.

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