Bid for health spending in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire to be devolved

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There are worries about whether health spending should be devolved to Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, with warnings councillors should not be “dazzled” by cash.

A report on whether the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - the county’s mayoral authority - should bid for more powers over health spending in the region is “in its final stages”.

The combined authority, which is already the lead authority for transport in the region, is looking to take on extra powers and budgets over health care and adult social care.

It is hoped taking on responsibility for health spending will allow services to be delivered more effectively.

According to a report which went before the Cambridgeshire Health Board yesterday (Thursday, November 22): “Combined authority partners have a unique opportunity to transform public service delivery to be much more seamless, responsive to local need, more sustainable and capable of delivering shared outcomes for citizens of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“The recent report of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission has also highlighted the importance of improving the integration of health and care in our area.”

The report goes on to say the combined authority is developing a “compelling proposal” to secure government funding for an “innovative, systemic solution for health and social care” (including upfront funding to enable reform).

Paul Raynes, director of strategy and planning at the combined authority, said the public body may be able to help “accelerate” improvements to delivery of health and adult social care. He said a report from think tank ResPublica on how health care spending could be devolved is now in its “final stages”.

Mr Raynes said the devolution deal had included a commitment to working with health care. He said that once the ResPublica report was published, the combined authority would begin engaging in “serious conversations with partners” about a proposal to take to the Government.

The board heard Cambridgeshire is looking at how health spending has been devolved in places like Manchester, where the local authority was put in charge of £6 billion of health funding in the area, and was also given £450 million to help “transform” the services.

Cllr Linda Jones, however, warned against being “dazzled” by large pots of money, saying she was not convinced devolved health spending had been such a success in Manchester.

Cllr Jones said: “At the moment this is just rhetoric. I worry you’ll make a devolution bid and the pot of money will be so dazzling people will jump straight into it, and that is the wrong reason to do this. We need to understand exactly what we are doing.”

Cllr Jones said she was “sceptical” about relying on consultants’ reports to decide policy, saying they often simply reflected prevailing thoughts instead of challenging them.

“We need a much bigger picture,” said Cllr Jones. “We need more work to be done to make us confident of doing this.”

Val Moore, chairwoman of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire, who chaired the meeting, said any proposal to devolve health powers would need to prove to government it would be effective and efficient.

The board noted the report and the work done so far.

Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service