Giving local decision makers the power to handle billions of pounds of NHS funds would be a brave and significant step for Leeds.
Greater Manchester’s recently announced devolution deal, in which the region’s 10 local authorities and NHS bodies will oversee a £6billion combined health and social care budget by April 2016, suggests similar deals could soon emerge elsewhere.
Over the years the NHS has been separate to the council-run care system that oversees elderly homecare for example.
But the foundations for combined working are already being put in place in Leeds and beyond through the Government’s Better Care Fund, which is seeing councils and NHS commissioners pool smaller health budgets for services like sexual health services and drug and alcohol treatment for example.
Details to emerge so far suggest that a new Greater Manchester board will control spending on everything from social care and specialist and complex care like heart surgery to local services like GPs and district nursing.
Local councillors seem behind putting decision makers outside of Whitehall in charge of the funds that affect the communities in which they work, and clearly something needs to be done.
Last year NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the debt-ridden health service “needs to change substantially” to face an ageing population – that was before a winter period that has stretched emergency departments, ambulance services and hospital wards to breaking point.
It seems further devolution is the logical next step, but whether it will be the answer to our NHS woes is yet to be seen.