Andy Burnham’s announcement that he will contest the election to become mayor of Greater Manchester may not seem like an electrifying news story for care home operators.
But private sector care home providers need to take note that the Shadow Home Secretary and former Secretary of State for Health, will use Manchester as a proving ground for his pet project – stripping the private sector of its role in taxpayer-funded social care, and handing over the entire market to the NHS.
In an interview broadcast on May 22 with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, he restated his long-held view that health and social care should all be provided by the NHS. “We have the opportunity to build in Greater Manchester the country’s first fully integrated national health and care service,” Mr Burnham said. “We would bring social care into the NHS and out of the hands of the private sector,” he added.
Mr Burnham’s views are not new, and are not out of step with Labour party thinking. The shadow health secretary drew exuberant support at the party conference in September 2014 when he laid out plans to end the scandal of how old and vulnerable people are treated by the state and his plan to integrate NHS and social care.
In a speech eight months ahead of the General Election that Labour lost, Mr Burnham promised an incoming Labour Government would ask hospital trusts and other NHS bodies to evolve into NHS integrated care organisations, working from home to hospital to coordinate physical, mental and social care. “The time has come for this party to complete Nye Bevan’s vision and bring social care into the NHS,” he said.
Mr Burnham identifies bed blocking by older vulnerable people as a burden on NHS hospitals, and suggests that shifting responsibility and budgets for social care to NHS trusts will relieve it. “It makes no sense to cut simple support in people’s homes only to spend thousands keeping them in hospital. We can’t afford it. It will break the NHS,” he suggested in 2014.
Private sector care homes were demonised in his party conference speech, whipping up Labour members with references to “shameful scenes” of the elderly being neglected or abused in care homes while attacking care home operators of making “profits off the backs of the most vulnerable.”
Private sector operators say stand willing and able to tackle the NHS bed blocking challenge by providing care home beds and nursing care much more cheaply than publicly funded hospitals. Independent think tank Respublica agrees. In a report published in November last year titled, The Care Collapse, it calculated that, over the next five years to 2020/2021, £3.3 billion will be spent by hospitals on acute care for patients who have no medical requirement to be there.
Contrary to Mr Burnham, Respublica concluded that the private sector should play a bigger role in a better integrated health and social care framework because it provides care far more efficiently. “We project that a greater role for residential care could make much more efficient use of limited healthcare funds. Caring for all delayed transfer patients in a residential care setting, rather than a highly specialised high cost acute bed, would cost £835 million across the five years to 2020/21. Taken cumulatively across this period, this would generate a surplus of £2.4 billion currently due to be spent on inappropriate in-hospital care for patients,” The Care Collapse report stated.
Mr Burnham wants to renationalise the private sector adult social care sector in Greater Manchester, while Respublica suggests the opposite, with £3.3 billion of England’s NHS budget diverted into a Fast Track Discharge Fund that will be available to care homes that tackle the bed blocking problem. “Ring-fence, out of the existing NHS budget over the forthcoming five years, the £3.3 billion we project will be spent on inappropriate in-hospital patient care to 2020/21 for the Fast Track Discharge Fund, to enable CCGs to both directly commission residential care beds and train and upgrade clinical care staff and facilities in residential care,” Respublica urges.