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BMA rejects ‘undesirable’ Labour proposals to integrate health and social care

The BMA has rejected the Labour Party’s suggestion for full integration of health and social care budgets, saying it is neither ‘necessary nor desirable’.

In a formal submission to the party’s policy review into care integration, the BMA said integration may lead to the NHS budget being tapped to prop up underfunded social care, and argued that clinicians should stay in charge of budgets as they have expert knowledge of local health needs.

Proposals for full integration of health and care services were floated by Labour upon launching an independent commission to inform its policy on integration in April, with health and wellbeing boards taking over the health budgets from CCGs to create a truly integrated system.

The Labour review is led by Glossop GP Sir John Oldham, who has been asked to come up with a range of ideas for how to integrate health and social care to make NHS more effective and affordable.

But the BMA warned that instead Labour should consider designing new tariffs or transferring parts of the local authority budgets to CCGs to improve integration.

The document says: ‘The BMA does not believe the full integration of health and social care (structures, budgets and staff) is either necessary or desirable. Rather, we believe that current structures should be retained, maintaining separate services, and existing mechanisms to facilitate coordination between health and social care should be used more widely to plan and deliver joined-up local services.’

‘Coordination is best achieved not by reorganisating but by creating stability across the NHS and local authorities and allowing integrated care to become a priority. The NHS budget should be protected and should not be used to prop up underfunded social care services.

‘Local health commissioning should remain the duty of the CCG, to ensure it is carried out by people with expert and in-depth knowledge of local health services and the health needs of the local population.’

In a recent interview with Pulse, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul refused to be drawn on whether the GPC has been in discussions with the Labour Party over its plan to merge NHS and social care budgets.

He said: ‘GPC and the BMA always have a dialogue with all of the major parties, [who] all have a role to play in the politics of the NHS. We would need to get our heads around more of what Labour is proposing but they haven’t made their minds up yet anyway – they are consulting.