Public Services > Central Government

Tory manifesto targets health and social care integration

Neil Merrett Published 14 April 2015

Election plan will up SME target for central government procurement to a third and confirms £8bn NHS funding pledge

Conservative Party

A Conservative-led government would back further integration of health, social care and the emergency services, as well as strengthening the role of smaller companies in its procurement chain among key commitments should the party retain power beyond the General Election on May 7.

According to the party's manifesto document, the Tories will continue to drive ahead with efficiency reforms to streamline the Civil Service. Under these plans, the party will also look to find £12bn in savings through unspecified welfare reforms and move forward with the roll out of Universal Credit.

At central government level, the party said it would raise the target for the share of Whitehall procurement going to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to one-third of all purchases, while requiring all suppliers to agree to a stronger Prompt Payment Code.

"We will push ahead with reform of the Civil Service to make it more dynamic and streamlined. We will make recruitment to the Civil Service more open and actively look for exceptional talent, especially in areas where capabilities are in short supply," the manifesto said.

Alongside existing commitments to sell unneeded government property and increase service co-location, the party said it would look to build on the government's work in launching 20 out of 25 digital services expected to be in place by the end of the last parliament.

"We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion. We will ensure digital assistance is always available for those who are not online, while rolling out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity - such as GOV.UK," said the manifesto.

These platforms, which form part of a wider Government as a Platform (GaaP) strategy, are expected to include messaging and payment services that can be adopted across all departments over the next few years.

In healthcare, the party has formalised its pledge to provide at least £8bn in funding above inflation by 2020 to support NHS England's 'Five Year Forward View' plan that is designed to encourage data sharing and service interoperability in health and social care.

The integration of health and social services through the Better Care Fund was also among headline pledges in the document, which noted commitments to new pilot approaches like a trial to pool health and social care funding to provide devolved care in the Greater Manchester area.

The party said it would also work to support the country's fire and police services to work more closely together, while developing the role of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

"And we will continue the urgent work of overhauling how our police, social services and other agencies work together to protect vulnerable children, especially from the kind of organised grooming and sexual exploitation that has come to light in Rotherham, and other towns and cities across the UK," the document noted.

From a procurement standpoint, the Conservatives have pledged to make use of the Police Innovation Fund to support further adoption of new technologies like mobile devices to support service transformation.

The manifesto said the party would look to bolster support to expand the number of mutual organisations owned by staff that deliver public services as part of a drive for better value for the taxpayer.

Along with targeting an anticipated £12bn in welfare savings - exact details of which are not provided in the document - the party is committed to the roll-out of the Universal Credit benefit reforms designed to streamline administration despite implementation being delayed to around 2020. The manifesto also noted that the benefits a single household can claim each year would be reduced to £23,000 from £26,000.

The Conservative manifesto also played up commitments to devolved government by continuing to work with authorities in Wales and Scotland on reaching settlements over new powers, while pledging to grant English MPs a veto over "English-only matters" like income tax.

"We will retain the Barnett Formula as the basis for determining the grant to cover that part of the Scottish Parliament's budget not funded by tax revenues raised in Scotland," the document said.

"We will agree new rules with the Scottish Government for how the block grant will be adjusted, to take account of the new devolved tax and welfare powers. And we will ensure that where responsibility for taxation has been devolved, tax changes only affect public spending in that part of the country."

The party said it would also be implementing a fund aiming to ease pressure on local areas and services , while pushing forward with measures to tackle 'health tourism' in order to recover £500m from migrants using the NHS by the middle of the next parliament.

Kerry Hallard, chief executive of the National Outsourcing Association, said, "The coalition 'supposedly' met its target of awarding 25 per cent of public sector contracts to SMEs, and increasing this target to 33 per cent is a great boost for the UK's smaller service providers.

"However, there remains the issue of how many contracts are awarded directly and indirectly. Many SMEs work through subcontractors and these cause the bottleneck in payments - so although it all sounds great for smaller businesses, there is currently no guarantee of speedy payment to sub-contracted SMEs working on government contracts."

Related articles:

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Liberal Democrats propose Digital Rights Bill

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