New body to manage health and social care in Blackburn and Darwen given go ahead

A NEW £300million body to manage Blackburn and Darwen’s health and social care has been given the go ahead by councillors.

Borough councillors voted to approve the controversial Care Trust Plus at a special meeting by 28 members to 22.

Bosses claim the merger, which combines the social care budgets of the council and the primary care trust, will make the system simpler and help improve the borough’s dire health statistics.

But critics say the move, seen as the biggest change to public spending in the borough in recent years, will mean vital social services are taken out of voters’ hands, with only three out of 15 places on the trust board occupied by elected councillors.

The council’s ruling exec-utive will be asked to rubber stamp the proposals tomorrow night.

NHS North West, which controls the region’s health-care, will then examine the scheme before submitting it to health secretary Andy Burnham for the final decision.

The plans have already been delayed as bosses hoped to submit them before the parliamentary recess.

There is only one other Care Trust Plus in the country, in North East Lincolnshire. If Blackburn with Darwen’s goes ahead, the 15-man board, which will include lay members and NHS represent-atives, will decide how the total social care budget is spent when it meets every month.

Of the £300million total, £50million will be contributed by the council and £250million by NHS Blackburn with Darwen, which commissions healthcare in the borough.

Coun Dave Hollings, adult social care spokesman for the opposition Labour group, said while he supported the principles of the merger “the details are a bit thin on the ground.”

Critics, including unions, have raised fears that council cash could be used to plug NHS funding gaps, to the detriment of people in the care of social services.

But executive member for adult social care David Foster said there would be “adequate safeguards” to prevent this.