Major parties commit to more support for charities delivering health and social care

Members from all three of the major political parties said yesterday that the voluntary sector has a bigger role to play in working with the NHS to deliver better social care.

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, Labour MP Andy Burnham and Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt all outlined how their parties would seek to involve the charity sector more in social care services after the May election.

Speaking at Acevo‘s Spring Health and Social Care Conference yesterday, Labour member Andy Burnham outlined plans to create legislation which “treats the voluntary sector differently from private or commercial providers”.

Such legislation would enable the voluntary sector to be given longer term arrangements, usually five to ten year contracts, he said.

“We think that will play an important role in the voluntary sector and the NHS forming long term relationships that aren’t based on the shifting sands of annual contracts,” he said.

Burnham said these changes would be made by a Labour government in the life of the next parliament, as part of its repealing of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Burstow used his keynote address to say his party would encompass all the currently disparate budget strands into a single, ‘Better Care Fund’, the voluntary sector would then have a far larger say in where a single, pooled fund of money could then be distributed.

Burstow said the Lib Dems would seek to “cut out the middle man” between the department of health and local authorities when it came to social care.

“One of the absurd things we have in government at the moment is the Department of Health is the policy lead on social care. The Department of Health is the department that negotiates with the Treasury during a spending review on behalf of social care,” said Burstow.

“But at the moment it then parcels that money up and hands it over to the Department for Communities and Local Government. We think we need to cut out the middle man.”

The former Minister for Care Services also said that his party wanted to “establish a non-partisan, independently chaired” review of health and care spending after the May election which would: “engage directly with the public and civil society about priorities across the whole system.”

The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt said the way the NHS works makes it “uniquely well positioned to partner with the voluntary sector,” citing the work of cancer charities across the UK to “drastically improve” cancer survival rates since 2011.

Hunt outlined what he called the “Four Pillars” to help achieve the NHS’ Five Year Forward Plan, and said the voluntary sector would play a key part.

All three men agreed that the biggest issues that will face the NHS in the next five years are the UK’s aging population and people with complex mental, physical and social needs.