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27th January 2015

Solace statement on health and care reform

On 27th January Labour announced their “10-year plan” for the NHS. This is a statement from Jo Farrar, Solace Spokesperson on Community Wellbeing and Chief Executive of Bath and North East Somerset Council setting out the Society’s views on health and care reform.

We need to secure a cross-party consensus about how we create a radically different future for our health and social care services. That future should be locally based, democratically accountable and fully integrated.

There has been a historic imbalance in spending on health and social care. Ring-fencing health spending in this Parliament has been achieved only by significantly cutting local government budgets. This makes no sense, hitting social care and other critical services that keep people happy, healthy and out of hospital. Any political party setting out a credible long term vision for health and care needs to set out how they will tackle this imbalance. Westminster, Whitehall, and local councils all need to engage honestly with communities and each other to improve public services
where we live.

A sustainable health and social care system has local flexibility at its heart. Local flexibility enables a variety of approaches to be used to suit local circumstances, in order to deliver national outcomes. Crucially, local innovation encourages a greater pace of change, better suited to local needs and protects against one-size fits all, nation-wide policy failures. Central targets often produce unhelpful behaviour and put barriers in the way of real reform.

Local flexibility is vital, but to have legitimacy it must be aligned with accountability to local people. Giving local, democratically elected representatives’ accountability will help engage residents and ensure they play their role shaping the change that is required. At Solace we are long-term advocates of integration across health and social care and have supported previous calls for a single health and care budget which is singly commissioned. Democratically elected local councils must play a fundamental role in commissioning if the system is to be personalised, promote independence and prevention and be responsive to local people.