Responding to Andy Burnham’s speech announcing Labour’s 10 year plan for health and social care, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said:
‘Andy Burnham has set out an ambitious and wide-ranging vision for the NHS and social care. It throws down the gauntlet to the other parties to set out their plans ahead of the General Election.
‘Burnham is right to put integrated care at the heart of this vision. This echoes the prescription for a single budget and single commissioner for health and social care set out by the Barker Commission. His emphasis on mental health was also very welcome.
‘While he was at pains to stress his plans would not result in another structural reorganisation, it is not clear how change on this scale could be achieved without some changes to commissioning structures in particular. As our own research shows, although health and wellbeing boards are making good progress in some areas, the jury is still out on whether they can take on responsibility for commissioning on this scale.
‘While many will welcome the commitment to repeal some aspects of the Health and Social Care Act, it is not clear how far Labour intends to go in dismantling the architecture it established. It also remains to be seen how easily his commitment to roll back competition in the NHS can be squared with EU competition law.
‘The elephant in the room is how this will be paid for. Labour has not yet committed to finding the additional £8 billion identified in the Five Year Forward View as being needed to close the NHS funding gap by 2020. While Burnham’s plans to improve social care and increase the pay of care workers are very welcome, they will come with a hefty price tag which Labour will need to balance with its commitment to reduce the deficit.
‘The challenge for the Labour Party is to demonstrate how it will provide the funding to implement such a positive vision of the future.’