BLOG: We need devolution of health budgets to become a healthier city

Mayoral lead for wellbeing, Cllr Tim Beaumont, argues that devolution of health service budgets is needed to make Liverpool a healthier city… 

Since I took on the role as Mayoral lead for well being a year ago I’ve met dozens of people in the public and private sector all focused on one goal – make the people of Liverpool healthier.

During that time, I’ve learnt two key lessons: the first is that we have a very clear idea of what the problems are – we know who the enemies are that we’ve got to tackle.

The 2014 Report from the Mayoral Commission on Health, chaired by Sir Ian Gilmore, sets out clearly what is going wrong in the city and how we have been lagging behind other parts of the country in terms of incidence of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and outcomes such as overall life expectancy.

Through a lot of hard work from many dedicated people progress has been made – for example we have seen a reduction of almost a quarter in premature mortality since 2001 which is the second highest of the eight core cities. But we still have a long way to go before a child born in the Women’s can reasonably expect at least the England average health outcomes for the duration of his or her life.

The second lesson I’ve learnt is that we – the people of Liverpool – are the best people to solve the problems we face. We have the ground level understanding of what needs to be done. The health care professionals, charity workers, volunteers I’ve met all care passionately about their community and are energised by that connection with the people around them.

This need to come up with the answers ourselves is reflected in Mayoral Commission’s report. The vision in the 2014 report is to create ‘… an integrated health and social care system for Liverpool with prevention and self care at its core’. It then goes on to set out a challenging 10-point plan to achieve this goal.

At the heart of this plan is the integration of health care across the city: that anyone who has a role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the people of Liverpool gets together to make a difference. Only by getting everyone behind a single plan will we be able to deliver on better health in the city.

Closer, integrated working behind a single plan will ensure that all the energies of the various health groups in the city are pulling in the same direction. There will be opportunities made available through joint working that would be missed if organisations ploughed on alone.

But we need more than just good networking to make the change our city needs – we need access to the tools to do the job we now we can do. We need a revolution in the devolution of health care budgets to Liverpool. We can only do so much with what we get at the moment. NHS England is a fine organisation in many ways but itdoes not have the local knowledge to make a difference at a neighbourhood level.

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, recently said in a speech to the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group: “The future discussions with Government on devolution has to and will include Health and Wellbeing and how we get, not only better value but better outcomes.”

I am convinced that if we get health and well-being devolved to a local level the chances of Liverpool becoming healthier will get a huge shot in the arm.

Liverpool Waterfront