Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary wants to kick the private sector out of running care homes.
The Labour party’s Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, is hoping to turn the clock back in Greater Manchester to the days when care homes were run by the State.
The former Secretary of State for Health has correctly diagnosed the crisis of bed blocking in NHS hospitals, and rightly aims for an outcome where hospitals, care homes and domiciliary care services work seamlessly together.
While Mr Burnham is right about the diagnosis and the desired outcome, he is entirely wrong about the treatment required to cure the problem. Stripping the private sector of its role in providing taxpayer-funded social care would cost more and lead to worse services.
Mr Bunham’s plan, which is likely to be a headline grabbing manifesto pledge in his Greater Manchester mayoral election pitch, could very well be put into action. He is a popular politician in the north west, not least for his admirable campaigning on behalf of Hillsborough victims. Add in his national profile as Shadow Foreign Secretary, and you can see why he is currently 5/4-on with the bookies to win the contest (although interim Mayor Tony Lloyd is currently favourite to win).
Greater Manchester is the only English region that has control over health and social care spending, a devolved power that George Osborne may regret granting almost as much as owners of the private sector care companies that could be affected by Mr Burnham’s experiment.
Ironically, his pitch comes in a month where an exemplary £60 million public/private partnership has been completed in Suffolk, with 10 homes built by Care UK now open and operating.
Around half the beds are contracted to the County Council for 25 years for taxpayer-funded residents who will receive high quality residential care in brand new buildings.
Plus they will have access to nursing care, which the council was not able to provide in the 16 ageing care homes that it used to run before the private sector Care UK stepped in.
Revenue from the 50% of beds that Care UK retains for private-funders is making this improvement in care for council-funded relatives possible.
Mr Burnham should pay close attention to how this highly desirable outcome was achieved.