In a keynote speech this afternoon to the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham announced that Labour would merge health, social and mental health care into a single budget, if elected in 2015.
Speaking to an audience of charity and social enterprise chiefs, Burnham also committed Labour to no further systemic reorganisation of the NHS, and to enshrining in law citizen’s rights to choice of care.
A single budget line for health, social and mental care
Burnham announced that a future Labour government would merge health, mental and social care into “a single service that can see all of one person’s needs”.
He confirmed that this single service would be administered through a single budget line, to help break down arbitrary barriers between health and social care which hamper the system’s ability to care for patients with multiple conditions.
He said the single budgets would create “a financial incentive to keep people happy and healthy in their own homes, through a year of care budget for all need rather than an episodic tariff”.
No systemic reorganisation
Burnham told ACEVO that Labour would seek to work within the current structure of the NHS.
When questioned on the topic, he pledged he “will work within the institutions I inherit”.
He argued for changes to the culture and practice of the current health and care system, and criticised what he called the government’s “plan for the ever-increasing hospitalisation of older people”.
He called for a fundamental shift in the NHS’s culture, from “a service that moves on from its treatment service mentality to one that promotes health and independence … from patient-centred to person-centred.”
New rights for citizens who receive services
Burnham’s speech also proposed an end to centrally-administered performance targets for NHS managers.
He announced that Labour would introduce fundamental rights for citizens who use health services, to drive change to the system through the needs of normal people:
The right to a single point of contact
The right to have your informal carers needs assessed
The right to be cared for in a place of your choosing, including the right to give birth at home and end your life at home.
Response from Sir Stephen Bubb
Speaking directly before Burnham, Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of ACEVO welcomed Labour’s recent Oldham Commission on Whole Person care, but warned that the party must support its plans with the promise of changes to the law.
Bubb also said it was essential for the NHS’s future that it worked more closely with charities and social enterprises:
“The politician that leads on an agenda which enjoins the voluntary sector with the NHS will hold the key to saving our NHS.”