by GK Strategy 12th August, 2016
3 min read

What will Greater Manchester’s health and social care look like under a Burnham mayoralty?

After securing the Labour Party’s nomination for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has found himself with a major opportunity to shape public policy in the Government’s flagship region for devolution. As well as transport, skills and housing, the mayoral position comes with a role that oversees a £6bn health and social care budget – something which former Health Secretary Burnham is all too familiar with.

Burnham himself has said it was the devolution of health and social care powers that comes with the job that drove his decision to run for GM Mayor rather than in his native Liverpool. Given the Leigh MP’s somewhat controversial role in the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust, which came out of special measures this week, how GM’s health and social care powers and structures will be developed under his potential mayoralty will certainly be a key area of attention. Although ultimately the financial control will remain with the region’s local clinical commissioning groups and metropolitan borough councils, the new mayor can expect to have a significant role in public policy and influencing how the £6bn budget will be spent.

The former Health Secretary has already pledged giving control of Greater Manchester’s social care services to the NHS would be one of his “main priorities” should he be elected, and has called for a ban on private providers from running care homes. In the run up to the 2015 General Election, Burnham was the champion of Labour’s policy for integrated “whole-person” care. Should he win, it will be interesting to see if this rhetoric is resurrected in GM.

It’s not been an easy ride for Burnham on his path to victory (which after two Labour leadership defeats isn’t a phrase you see too often). A year ago he criticised the process by which GM’s health devolution deal was “drawn up on the back of an envelope”, comments which he has since said he would not be apologising for and that the political system in the region is “too closed”. Local media reported at least one mobile phone was thrown at him during a speech in which he said the council’s plans to make one hospital trust for the city was a “government route to back door closures”, and in February 2015 he warned that the plans could lead to further breakup of the health service – stating there could be a “Swiss-cheese NHS”.

With a focus on integrated care and more efficient pathways for the service, health configuration in GM is something stakeholders will be keeping a close eye on. Bookmakers are now offering odds of 1/6 on a Burnham victory too – and when was the last time the bookies got their political betting wrong?

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