Labour launches commission on integrating health and social care

Party leader Ed Miliband will announce inquiry to examine how best to bring two services together, in order to save money and deliver "whole-person care".

Labour has set up a commission to examine how best to integrate health and social care services in England.

Party leader Ed Miliband announced the inquiry today in a speech in Chorley, three months after shadow health secretary Alan Burnham put forward radical plans to merge the two services for consideration in a six-month policy review.

This now looks set to be superceded by the commission on whole person care, which will be chaired by John Oldham, a GP and former national clinical lead for quality and productivity at the Department of Health.

In his speech in January, Burnham made the case for full integration on the grounds that it would deliver whole-person care to people with long-term conditions, meeting their mental, physical and social care needs, and that it would save money across the two services.

He also suggested that in future, new health and well-being boards, which sit within local authorities, should commission all health and social care, and that NHS trusts should be responsible for delivering social care as well as hospital care. This would most likely involve trusts sub-contracting work to existing independent sector care providers.

Speaking today, Miliband said the proposed changes would mean “teams of doctors, nurses, social workers and therapists working together”, “care being arranged by a single person you know”, and a greater focus on preventing illness, care at home and the avoidance of unnecessary hospital admissions.

The commission will look at different ways of combining the health and social care budgets that do not involve increases in overall spending or a “top-down reorganisation”.

Oldham said he was pleased to take on the role in leading the commission, adding: “Seventy per cent of activity and cost in the care system is for people with multiple chronic diseases, which includes a rising number of older people. Their care crosses organisational boundaries, and is fragmented.”

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