Funding gaps in social care threaten to undermine plans to transform devolved health services in Greater Manchester, according to one of the project’s key figures.
Greater Manchester strategic health and social care partnership board executive lead for finance and investment Steve Wilson made the admission during a hearing of the Lords long-term sustainability of the NHS Committee on Tuesday.
Mr Wilson was among a number members of the board questioned on the progress of the plans commonly known as ‘Devo Manc’, which aim to transform health and social care services.
Questioned by committee chair Lord Patel as to how the success in Greater Manchester was being measured, Mr Wilson said a projected gap of £176m in social care over the next five years, presented a risk to wider plans.
He said: ‘The devolution platform has given a real enabler to make change happen locally and that is about integrating social care, healthcare and physical health and mental health within localities and communities
‘The original plan for Greater Manchester, to close the financial and clinical sustainability gap over the next five years, was based on social care funding being protected.
‘There is a risk to delivering those plans at the moment, because we do have a gap at the end of our five-year planning period around social care.’
Board papers recently published by the partnership reveal a deficit of £897m for NHS services in Greater Manchester, although planned efficiency savings over four years in commissioning and provision totalling £880m, would significantly reduce this.
Mr Wilson said that challenges in finding solutions to the £176m social care deficit, however, were affecting wider efforts for integration and putting services on a sustainable footing.
He added: ‘The risk is, that unless we’re able to use the transformation funding we’ve got available in Greater Manchester at the moment, to transform services now … we won’t be able to deliver those integrated services in the future.’
Manchester city council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein, who also attended Tuesday’s hearing, said the financial burden presented by social care threatened to ‘gnaw away’ at the partnership’s plans for sustainability and integration.
He added that he had written to Jeremy Hunt, chancellor Philip Hammond and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, outlining the risks posed by shortfalls in Manchester’s social care.
His letter follows that of Commons health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston, who wrote to the chancellor in October, urging him to pledge greater investment in the NHS in his autumn statement.
In the letter, Dr Wollaston pointed out that ongoing cuts to social care services in England were having a ‘serious impact’ on the wider NHS.
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