APPG ‘Question Time’ puts devolved health and social care to the test

19 January 2018

Eighteen months in, devolved health social care is already showing signs of success, attendees of last week’s Greater Manchester APPG at Manchester Metropolitan University heard.

MPs, Peers, and the Mayor, Andy Burnham were joined by leaders in health and social care at the meeting, chaired by Lucy Powell MP. They discussed the state of urgent and emergency care, mental health, population health and other topical issues in the region.

Jon Rouse, Chief Officer of the Health and Social Care Partnership, said that significant progress has been made on delayed transfers of care, though stressed that the winter challenges felt nationally are still evident in Greater Manchester. Lord Peter Smith, who chairs the Strategic Partnership Board Board, said that Greater Manchester is focusing on ‘good health’ instead of ill-health, and how it can integrate health with wider societal issues.

One successful area is mental health, with Simone Spray of 42nd Street noting that the public sector clearly recognises what the voluntary sector offers and has thus fully integrated it to structures. The MoU between the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector and the Health and Social Care Partnership was welcomed by GMCVO’s Alex Whinnom as an opportunity to build wider, local networks too.

The state of social care continues to be a problem, with the dwindling funding pushing some of the best providers out of the market, and care workers subject to extremely long days with minimal time for visits. MMU’s Professor Alison Chambers suggested that the broader care workforce needs to be appreciated and care viewed as a ‘vibrant’ career option. Burnham proposed that Salford’s commissioning of social care through the NHS instead of local government is replicated by the other nine boroughs. Whether the new Department of Health and Social Care will affect responsibility for commissioning remains to be seen.

Overall, Greater Manchester’s residents are not healthy, and it is wider determinants such as housing, employment, education and social networks that factor far more in poor health than the quality of services. Although Lord Peter Smith appreciated that the 2015 devo deal in Greater Manchester was primarily about health, the present focus on areas such as homelessness and early years is seeing these wider determinants better accounted for.

MPs and Peers will have a vital role to play over 2018 as Greater Manchester seeks devolution of post-16 skills policy, and possibly other areas of education. The national preoccupancy with Brexit only makes the agenda more important, argued Lucy Powell MP.

Nevertheless, as Burnham concluded, Greater Manchester could become ‘a beacon of hope to elsewhere’, by doing things differently – and better. This next year will put that to the test.