The Burnham Era: What next for Health and Social Care in Greater Manchester?

While all eyes are on the general election campaign, our new metro mayors will be getting down to work. For healthcare professionals, Andy Burnham’s next steps will be critical. He has, of course, become the mayor of Greater Manchester, taking over from the interim mayor, Tony Lloyd.

But Burnham is unique in that he is the very first to navigate the most devolved healthcare system in England. To understand this, we must understand the dynamic between the new office of the mayor and the existing council leaders who make up much of the board of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP).

The central figure in this is Lord Smith of Wigan. He was instrumental in signing the health devolution deal with Chancellor George Osborne in late 2014, and still chairs the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, a sort of cabinet of council leaders from the ten metropolitan boroughs. Smith has been somewhat side-lined with the rise of the new metro mayor, something he had not anticipated when he signed the deal – he attempted to be appointed interim mayor by the Combined Authority, only to be beaten by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.

Andy Burnham has been vocal about his desire to make his mark on the health and social care system of Greater Manchester, with policies in his manifesto including the creation of an integrated Greater Manchester Health and Care Service, and a new social prescribing system in which GPs can offer non-traditional support.

The fact remains that Burnham does not have statutory responsibility for this area of policy – this remains with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership under the auspices of the Combined Authority. To implement his impressive agenda in health and social care, he will have to win over the nine council leaders and Salford’s elected mayor, and most likely the health and adult social care executive members of the councils, who are often delegated to attend meetings of the board. Representatives of NHS England, the CCGs, Healthwatch and the community and acute trusts are also entitled to attend, along with others.

Alongside Lord Smith, the other central figure will be Jon Rouse, the Chief Officer of the Partnership. He has previously been Chief Executive of Croydon Council and the Director General of Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships at the Department of Health. We understand Rouse is fully on board with Burnham’s agenda, so this should smooth the path towards an effective partnership between the two. Indeed, he previously sat on the Department of Health’s board until 2010 – when Burnham was Secretary of State.

Burnham is entitled to take the Chair at board meetings. Whether he chooses to do so will depend on the settlement he can come to with the leaders, including Lord Smith. Burnham is shrewd and knows the best way of implementing one’s agenda is often to let others take the lead. He has much on his plate with his wide-ranging statutory responsibilities.

We are eager to see how Burnham handles the GMHSCP at this critical time for the NHS.

Tom Williams, Senior Account Executive

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