£6bn healthcare and social care budget devolved to Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester has become the first area to take control of its healthcare and social care budget as part of its devolution deal with the Government.
More than 30 organisations, including the region's 10 councils, NHS England, hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups, will take charge of the funding from today as the Greater Manchester Strategic Partnership.
The partnership will decide how budgets are allocated and targeted in areas including adult, primary and social care, mental health, community services and public health, with the aim of improving integration between health and social care.
Lord Peter Smith, chair of the partnership and leader of Wigan Council, said: "We spend £6bn on health and social care but life expectancy in Greater Manchester is not as good as it should be. Lots of people suffer from long-term illness and we've got great ambition to do something about their health.
"But it's wider than health; we want to do something for the economy.
"A lot of people can't get into work because they have health problems, so if we can help them there will be more people getting back into work and we will have more wealth created in Manchester."
However, with Greater Manchester facing a £2bn deficit in its healthcare budget by the end of the decade, some have questioned how devolution will deliver the necessary savings.
GP Dr Zahid Chauhan told the BBC: "My concerns with all this funding deficit and loss of £2bn is that we might struggle to achieve it and who will be responsible for that?
"Will it mean less doctors, appointments and operations? I don't know, but those are the questions that need to be answered."
Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, welcomed the "landmark" transfer of responsibility as a significant step towards health and social care integration in Greater Manchester, as well as wider devolution for other parts of the country.
"Though all health devolution agreements will be unique, this deal provides us with useful lessons on how to turn a devolution deal into an achievable transformation plan," he said.
"It is important that this budget has been devolved and hopefully other Whitehall departments will now follow suit. This will help pave the way for future health devolution deals, which will help local areas use public spending more effectively to best meet the needs of local people.
"As well as health budgets, Whitehall needs to put its faith in devolving the fullest range of powers to all local areas, with no policy areas out of bounds and with them free to choose the best governance to suit their local needs.
"This will see money targeted where it's most needed in order to deliver more homes and infrastructure, create jobs and a skilled workforce, join up health and care services for elderly and vulnerable people, and make the most of each place’s unique assets and deliver health and prosperity for all citizens.
"Widespread devolution supported by fairer funding is essential for the survival of public services and to deliver the Government's ambition for our communities and national economy."