Greater Manchester Councils to Control Health Budget: UNISON Response

Last night, the Manchester Evening News broke a story about the devolution of decisions on health spending to Greater Manchester councils and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).  You can view the story here.  This has not happened anywhere else in the country and it has made national news.

In response to this story, Kevan Nelson, UNISON North West Regional Secretary said: 

“The leaked news of an agreement to devolve health spending to Greater Manchester councils and CCGs as early as next year is hugely significant.

“We can see potential benefit in more integrated services, and democratically-accountable local decision-making over how best to use resources.  However, we will be watching very closely for more details when a formal announcement is made as we have a number of concerns.

“We will be looking for assurances that decisions on health spending will be made by people who are truly accountable to the public and who listen to the voices of the patients, staff and health professionals.

“We want assurances about what this could mean for health and social care workers.  This change has the potential to throw into question who their employer is and their terms and conditions.  NHS staff have already suffered years of falling living standards – it would be wrong to attack their terms and conditions again under the cover of a reorganisation. 

“We are concerned that health services remain freely accessible at the point-of-need.  Council social care services are means-tested and there can be no extension of user fees to our NHS.

“While local decision-making has potential benefits, we want to keep the ‘N’ in the NHS.  A founding principle of the NHS was that there should be a consistently high quality service available across the country, and we cannot allow a postcode lottery to emerge.

“Above all, the context of savage cuts to both local government and health services makes us nervous of this reform.  Devolution of decision-making cannot make up for persistent underfunding of services.  Our NHS and our councils desperately need fair funding to meet the needs of the public.  Without that, devolution will simply involve passing down to local politicians the power to choose where to make centrally-imposed cuts.”

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