Andy Burnham warns of limits to localism in social care

Andy Burnham has warned there are limits to localism in social care provision, insisting users regard fairness as more important than devolution.

Facing a grilling by MPs on the health select committee, the health secretary hinted the forthcoming social care white paper would go against “a lot of fashionable talk in recent times about localism and giving people the ability to run things at a local level”.

He continued: “I think often people don’t want that in areas like social care. They don’t want a postcode lottery in healthcare and, when it comes to social care, they want clarity about what they can expect and they want it to be fair across all areas.

“I think the case for national entitlement and national assessment is very strong.”

Speaking to HSJ after the hearing, Mr Burnham suggested that the social care white paper would not be published until March.

“If we got a white paper in March, I’d guess as one of the last white papers pre-election, then that would hopefully very much inform the flavour of the election debate,” he said.

Mr Burnham has repeatedly said that he wants social care to be one of the “top three” election issues.

He told the committee he was “an integrationist on health and social care”.

“I’d feel very comfortable with primary care trusts increasingly merging functions with adult services,” he said. But this did not mean a “takeover” by either health or local government, he added.

“We are looking at how the NHS might use some of its national structures such as Agenda for Change and the knowledge and skills framework to lend support to workforce development in social care but 100 per cent takeover is not an option under discussion,” he said.

In the committee session, Mr Burnham held the door open for other parties to join discussions about the paper’s contents, to allow the debate to evolve on a “more consensual basis”.

“I want to create unstoppable momentum for a bill in the next parliament where we reform social care funding in this country,” he said.