Devolving Manchester is wrecking NHS

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‘THESE plans for the devolution of the health budget to a Greater Manchester regional government truly lob a wrecking ball at the National Health Service,’ said British Medical Association (BMA) member Anna Athow yesterday.

She was responding to the announcement that Manchester is to get full control of its health spending from April 2016.

Tory Chancellor Osborne said that the £6bn health and social care budget would be taken over by the region’s councils and health groups, describing it as a ‘really exciting development’.

Athow warned: ‘The plan is that Greater Manchester must pool its health budget with its much tinier social care budget, and take responsibility for where the money goes.

‘In charge of the budget is to be a newly elected mayor advised by the heads of 10 Borough councils and a new Health and Wellbeing board.

‘Greater Manchester is in the midst of a huge and highly controversial “reconfiguration”, in which a further four to five hospitals are to lose their A&E departments or other acute services.

‘The new regional local government will have this mess dumped in their laps, at the same time as funding for the NHS will continue to be reduced.

‘Moreover, the health budget will be used to plug the huge gaps in social services whose budget has been cut by 25% since the election.’

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, asked: ‘Who is responsible if these changes go wrong?’

He continued: ‘Doctors believe the secretary of state for health should have the duty to provide a universal and comprehensive health service and must take responsibility for guaranteeing national standards in the quality of care across the country.’