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Historic transfer of health powers

I HOPE you’ll excuse the play on words, but the historic decision to devolve Greater Manchester’s £6 billion health and social care budget was just what the doctor ordered. We’re finally getting the chance to break the London shackles and shape our own destiny.

While our EU and transatlantic neighbours have been delegating power for years, the UK remains one of the West’s most centralised states. Here in Britain the Government accounts for 77 per cent of all public spending. The comparable figure for the US is 58 per cent, and in Germany only 19.

From next month we will be able to start establishing an over-arching health and wellbeing board to administer a single budget for the whole of Greater Manchester. All the doctors and hospitals will remain firmly within the NHS, and bound by national targets and regulations, but it will be possible to target the money much more effectively.

By merging social care and health we’ll be better able to deal with things like diabetes, dementia and depression which are now responsible for almost three-quarters of healthcare spending. Costs can fall dramatically when there is more emphasis on preventative measures and a full use of all resources, non-medical as well as medical.

It’s all about creating a joined-up system which focuses on the needs of its users. Rather than being administered by anonymous civil servants in Whitehall, our health and wellbeing board will be run by local people who are accountable to you, the voters. After all it’s we, who live and work in the region who understand what our key issues are.

The intention is to make the very best medical care available to the people of our region. The health and wellbeing board will look at the region’s hospitals and GP surgeries to make the changes patients demand such as improved services, longer hours, shorter waiting lists and faster appointments.

In two years’ time that democratic angle will be reinforced when Greater Manchester gets its own elected mayor to supply political and strategic leadership. Devo-Manc will start to be fully implemented and we’ll begin set our own priorities and making our own decisions as we take control of the full £22 billion budget.

Tameside will reap its own benefits from this new way of doing things. We’re approaching some exciting times and there’s lots of cause for optimism about the future.

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