FINANCE: The Tees PCT cluster - Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees - has begun discussion ahead of possible “major service change where quality and affordability make it necessary”.

December board papers say: “Locally, the NHS Institute for Improvement has been facilitating our health and social care diagnostic exercise with all of our key partners. A launch event held in October attended by more than forty of the most senior postholders on Tees (executives, non-executives and elected members) signalled the beginning of the interview round - over 100 in all and which have now been completed.”

It continues: “Our strategic approach to the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) programme for 2012-13 and beyond is to help improve public understanding and awareness of the financial challenges we are facing whilst at the same time providing assurance that this will not be at the expense of quality.

“In partnership with our acute foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups we have started to take these messages out into the communities, meeting with health scrutiny forums and LINks groups and planning for a wider communication campaign.

“Our objective is not to jump to solutions at this stage but to lay the path for wider public and patient engagement as to what those solutions might be. This will help prepare for major service change where quality and affordability make it necessary, but only after purposeful engagement and consultation.

“We have very recently taken the opportunity to reassure the public, in Hartlepool in particular, of our authority as commissioners in this respect and our absolute commitment to this process.”