Coming your way: £3.8 billion to spend on public health

Norman Lamb: off the cuff and off piste at Localis  Pic courtesy of The Guardian

Norman Lamb: off the cuff and off piste at Localis
Pic courtesy of The Guardian

In the middle of the biggest wave of austerity to hit England since the 1930s a cool £3.8 billion will be handed over to your local town hall and local NHS from 2015. The aim will be to switch money from your big hospital to your local community to spend on public health and social care.
Do you trust your local council to spend it wisely? Who will know what it has been spent on? and it will it unleash clever new ideas as promised to help local people?
This was a point of a press conference yesterday by the rather arcane titled think tank,Localis,to publish a report asking precisely that. Read it here.
It was launched by a Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb, who began well by throwing his boring Whitehall brief on the floor and launching a passionate off the cuff speech calling for new ideas to stimulate local public health services.
As he was off piste, he refreshingly condemned those private companies exploiting lowly paid care workers, some even on below minimum wage rates,or zero hour contracts, and not being paid for travel between seeing different customers. He might have added that they should join a good union like Unite or GMB to take up their plight, but then he is a Liberal Democrat.
What is interesting about this initiative is that it might do some good. It means more freedom and money for local people to find ways to help the elderly, disabled, the local alcoholics and drug takers and if combined with better housing, transport, planning, job creation and children’s services it might make a difference.
But it is a big IF and it is clear from the Localis report that people have to be made accountable for how this money is spent and that has not been properly worked out. As the brilliant local government expert Tony Travers put it, that you know better who to complain about the dustbins than you do over public health. And he did not get a satisfactory answer from the minister.
In Berkhamsted as a previous blog pointed out we already have the makings of this at Gossoms End, a NHS community hospital with a GP surgery, a nursery, physio and local sheltered housing attached to get good local care. The minister said that the people of Great Yarmouth and Yeovil are also soon to benefit from new community schemes.
In the meantime an invitation to see Gossoms End is still there, Norman. That is if you can get your bossy civil servants to give you any space in your diary. And they may lynch you for throwing away their boring prepared speech.