Echoing his major speech to the King’s Fund in January, Burnham said that the NHS needed to focus on “whole-person care”, bringing together physical health, mental health and social care.
This would be “the century of the ageing population”, he said, and existing care services were not equipped to deal with that challenge.
Burnham’s speech to the Health + Care conference, the largest national event for health and social care professionals, reflected the perspective of the 2009 Darzi review, which placed emphasis on integrated and community-based care.
However, Burnham noted, Government policy was to fragment care, forcing councils to cut back on social care provision and thereby overloading the NHS in order to create opportunities for the private sector.
As Health Secretary, Burnham had criticised independent sector treatment centres for their refusal to disclose their clinical performance data, and had affirmed that the NHS itself should be the “preferred provider” of NHS services.
Despite his concerns about the current NHS reforms, Burnham said he would work with the existing CCGs and Health and Wellbeing Boards to achieve better care integration that was able to look after patients with complex needs.
Conference Director Ralph Collett commented: “Mr Burnham made a fascinating speech which sets the agenda for tomorrow’s proceedings. Integration has been mentioned countless times throughout the presentations by clinicians and social care leaders alike and I sense a real appetite to turn thoughts into actions.”
Other speakers, including Social Care Minister Norman Lamb and dementia tsar Alistair Burns, placed emphasis on the care needs of elderly people.