Health and social care services in Greater Manchester are preparing to break away from centralised control, following a devolution settlement with the UK government in November 2014.
Discussions are under way among the 10 local authorities, 12 clinical commissioning groups, 14 NHS providers, NHS England and the government, aiming to reach agreement about a new way of running health and social care in the Greater Manchester region.
From April 2016, an as-yet unnamed partnership will take control of the region’s £6bn NHS budget, which is currently administered by NHS England. Healthcare will remain free for patients and national standards will continue to apply to local services.
Chancellor George Osborne said in a press statement that the move — a national first — was in line with the government’s vision of a “Northern Powerhouse” and would help to improve care for patients.
The move follows the deal last November between the chancellor and leaders of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to devolve powers and responsibilities to the region in return for Greater Manchester adopting a directly elected Mayor.
Aneet Kapoor, chair of the Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee, welcomes the move despite not having been consulted directly about the plans. “In the main, it can only have a positive impact in terms of patient care,” he says. “As long as it does what it’s supposed to do, it will allow us as pharmacists to have more flexibility and patients to have greater parity and access. Pooling of budgets can only support what we’ve been trying to achieve in making things more streamlined.”
However, Kapoor says that it is too early to know precisely how the changes would impact local services. “It’s going to take time as we move forward to understand who sits where in the new structure,” he says. “The 12-month planning period may be a bit optimistic.”
The plans are expected to be announced officially on 27 February 2015.