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Call to boost local government role in managing NHS winter pressures

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Health and wellbeing boards should be handed responsibility for managing pressures in the health and social care system next winter in the wake of the Greater Manchester health devolution deal, London Councils has said.

The umbrella body has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt calling making a number of demands it says are needed to ensure the success of the better care fund, which has been designed to further integration between health and social care.

The letter follows last month’s announcement that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is to be handed control of the area’s £6bn NHS and social care budget.

London Councils vice chair and executive member for health Teresa O’Neill (Con) warned that without greater integration in London the health and social care system could struggle even more next winter than it has this year when a number of hospitals, including Croydon University Hospital, declared major incidents.

She said: “The government’s plans to devolve full control of Greater Manchester’s health spending are hugely encouraging as they reaffirm a commitment to integrating health and social care.

“We believe the only way London can begin to address the huge health and social care challenges it faces is by joining up services better.

“First and foremost, it’s imperative that health and wellbeing boards are involved in planning for winter pressures to prevent the sort of crisis which affected Croydon hospital and others.

“It makes sense that the same people who have been planning for the better care fund should be involved in planning for winter pressures.”

London Councils is calling on Mr Hunt to adopt a seven step plan (see file, right) to ensure the success of the better care fund. The plan says HWBs should be “given responsibility for operational resilience and capacity planning for 2015-16 with a requirement for these plans to be closely aligned with and ideally incorporated into local BCF plans”.

The plan says that as there is a “strong interrelationship” between BCF plans and NHS operational resilience and capacity plans “it does not make sense” for them to be “overseen apart from each other”.

The document also calls for the £37m of Department of Health money handed to local government to tackle delayed hospital discharges during 2014-15 to be incorporated into baseline funding in future years, and for “early clarity” about plans for the BCF in 2016-17.

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