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Labour announces proposals for integrated 'whole-person care'

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Labour would repeal the Health and Social Care Act if the party regained power, refocusing structures without significant reorganisation, in a bid to develop an integrated system of 'whole person care'.

In a speech outlining his party's priorities for health at an event hosted by independent charity the King's Fund, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called for 'a service that starts with what people want - to stay comfortable at home - and is built around them.'

To do this, he said Health and Wellbeing Boards would be handed greater power, with clinical commissioning groups acting in an advisory capacity, to ensure there was one budget and one service co-ordinating physical, mental and social care.

He said: 'Our fragile NHS has no capacity for further top-down reorganisation. Any changes must be delivered through the organisations and structures we inherit in 2015. I will simply re-focus the organisations I inherit to deliver this vision of whole-person care. Health and Wellbeing Boards could come to the fore, with CCGs supporting them with technical advice.'

Mr Burnham talked about breaking the divide between primary and secondary care. He added: 'For older people, the gravitational pull is towards hospital and care home. We need incentives in the right place - keeping people at home and out of hospitals.'

Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen's Nursing Institute, welcomed Labour's proposals. She said: 'Patients don't make a distinction between health and social care and they expect a service that does not separate them either.

'The way Health and Wellbeing Boards and CCGs will be working together from April will be an excellent platform from which to build a single organisation that addresses health and social care needs. Another major reorganisation of the NHS must be avoided, but merging existing structures would be a long awaited step in the right direction.'

The news comes as an opponent of the Health and Social Care Act, Lord Owen, registered a parliamentary bill to reinstate the health secretary's duty to provide health services, in accordance with the founding principles of the NHS. The former Social Democrat leader claimed this would eradicate the 'fragmentation' and 'marketisation' introduced into the NHS by last year's legislation.

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