Today George Osborne has announced plans to give the Greater Manchester region control of its £6 billion NHS budget. This follows the announcement of the so-called #DevoManc deal transferring powers to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which is not directly elected.
NHS England has issued a statement to diffuse concern about the impact of the changes on standards, organisation and administration, stating that “Any agreement would not require any NHS administrative reorganisation and makes use of existing legislative freedoms”.
These plans, which come just 68 days before a general election, have split the Labour party. Labour’s Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese has welcomed the deal, whilst Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has warned of a “Swiss-cheese” NHS, saying he would not offer this deal.
This move will take the NHS out of democratic control in 2016. It’s completely arse about face to shift powers and a huge budget in 2016, then have an election for mayor in 2017. If there has to be a vote, it needs to be moved forward.
This deal has real dangers. Far from tackling our city’s deep health inequalities, it threatens to fracture services further and put pressure on social care budgets too if health spending comes under pressure. It is also unclear who is responsible, and who we can hold to account if things go wrong.
One thing we do know now is that Labour is seriously split on the NHS. If you vote for Labour in Greater Manchester in May you do not know what you will be getting on the issue of health.