Plans for the biggest joint provider of health and social care in England have been approved by NHS Midlands and East, HSJ has been told.
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust will take on a 907-strong social care workforce and an annual budget of £153m from Staffordshire County Council.
The merger will create an organisation with a turnover of £350m and provide community health services to a population of more than one million residents and social care to a population of about 830,000.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is a unitary authority, will continue to provide its own social care services.
HSJ’s research suggests the trust will be more than four times larger than the next biggest health and social care provider, the community interest company Sirona Care and Health in Bath and North East Somerset.
There are currently just six organisations providing a similar model of integrated community health services and social care, including Wye Valley Trust in Herefordshire, which also provides acute services. The average size of the populations they serve is about 165,000.
Staffordshire Council’s announcement that the plans had been given the “green light” came after the NHS Future Forum called for an increased national focus on the potential benefits of integration.
The trust declined to comment pending official confirmation from the Department of Health, which is expected to be a formality.
Council cabinet member for wellbeing Matthew Ellis told HSJ it had always been intended that the partnership trust, which took on provider arms from Staffordshire’s three primary care trusts when it was formed in September, would follow an integrated model.
He said: “This has been designed around providing the best possible service to patients and residents, not around saving money. The savings are a welcome by-product.”
The trust’s business plan sets out potential for annual savings of up to £31.5m for the Staffordshire health economy through estates rationalisation and reduced management costs, as well as anticipated avoidance of more expensive forms of care.
It is hoped delayed transfers of care will be reduced to “negligible” levels, saving up to £2m, while telehealth schemes will lead to a 12 per cent reduction in outpatient appointments, saving up to £8m.
There will be a single point of access, with patients being designated a named manager to co-ordinate their care.
The trust and the council have signed a 10-year agreement, with a three-year break clause. The ambition is to move towards a commissioner/provider relationship.
Staff will transfer from April. They will be given the option of keeping their local government pension or switching to the NHS scheme.