It has been confirmed that Greater Manchester will take over responsibility for its own NHS budget in April 2015, following George Osbourne’s approval of the proposal.
Greater Manchester will be the first region in England to have full autonomy as to how its £6 billion budget is spent on its various NHS services. It is hoped that the move will allow spending to be tailored to the specific needs of the population of Greater Manchester and will improve the connection between NHS and social care services; meaning patients spending less time in hospital and more time at home where better treatment and services will be available.
Ann Barnes of Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, one of the authorities involved in the move, believes “We will have greater opportunities to respond swiftly and effectively to the needs of residents”.
It will be business as usual in most NHS clinics and hospitals to begin with, although over the coming year no doubt there will be changes afoot to maximise the budget and facilitate the ethos of all services working together.
But not everyone is optimistic that devolution of NHS budgets is the future of the NHS. Whilst Mr Osbourne is confident that devolution could be a solution to the increasing deficit in the NHS, local MP Barbara Keeley has expressed concern that the move will not alleviate the spending crisis, but simply hand over the problem to local bodies.
It cannot be overlooked that separate NHS Trusts will still be competing with each other over the allocation of the funds under the control of Greater Manchester. It remains to be seen how this will work in practice.
NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens calls it a “landmark” development for the NHS, but it remains to be seen if this is the future for NHS provision across England, or simply an opportunity to pass on responsibility for the NHS funding crisis.