Miliband focuses on NHS as he launches care integration inquiry


theweek-whiteLabour has announced plans for a new independent commission that will look at the “swift” and complete integration of the health and social care systems.

The Independent Commission on Whole-Person Care will be led by health expert Sir John Oldham and will examine different ways of bringing the social care system and the NHS together, but “without another top-down reorganisation and within existing resources”.

In announcing the commission, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, focused on the “financial pressures” and need for savings in the NHS budget, but said less about the social care system and its own funding pressures.

He said: “The NHS is facing the biggest challenge in its history. The toughest financial pressures for 50 years are colliding with our rising need for care as society gets older and we see more people with chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes and dementia.

“The NHS will always be a priority for expenditure under a Labour government but we must make every pound we spend go further at a time when our NHS faces the risk of being overwhelmed by a crisis in funding because of care needs by the end of this decade.”

He said a future system would need to bring physical health, mental health and social care into a single service.

Miliband said that an integrated system would mean social care and health for each individual being arranged by one person, which would end the frustration of “families being passed around between different organisations and having to repeat the same information over and over again”.

But he again appeared to be focusing on the NHS at the expense of the social care system when he added: “Bringing about the change we need means listening carefully to all those who work in, and rely upon, the NHS.”

Sir John said that 70 per cent of costs in the care system were for people with multiple, long-term health conditions, including a rising number of older people.

He said: “Their care crosses organisational boundaries, and is fragmented. Those patients say: ‘I want you to treat the whole of me, and act as one team,’ which also leads to better outcomes and greater efficiency for the whole system. We need to bring that about.”

Sir John is a GP, an international expert on large-scale organisational change in health systems, and created and headed Labour’s National Primary Care Development Team, which was launched in February 2000.

He has also worked on primary care improvement initiatives in the US, Canada and Australia, and is currently on secondment to NHS England as the national clinical lead for quality and productivity.

25 April 2013