• Integrated care system CCGs appoint first joint chief
  • Patricia Davies was previously joint chief of two Kent CCGs
  • ICS at crucial stage after row with local councils laid bare last month

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups have appointed a new joint accountable officer, as the health economy bids to move towards an integrated care system model.

Patricia Davies was previously the accountable officer for Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley, and Swale CCGs. She will take on the new joint post and has been charged with establishing the new joint leadership and governance structure for the commissioners. 

The joint executive team for the three CCGs will comprise of Ms Davies, a joint finance director, and some other yet to be confirmed overarching roles. Each CCG will have a chief operating office who will also sit on the joint executive team. These positions have not been filled.

Ms Davies, a nurse before moving into management, takes on the role at a crucial point in the local health system’s development with tensions running high between the NHS and their local government counterparts about how the nascent ICS will be structured and operate.

HSJ revealed in June the three local councils in the ICS threatened to quit because they said the local NHS “cannot legitimately claim to be working towards an integrated system” because local government was being overlooked.

The councillors’ views were set out in a letter sent to CCG leaders in response to commissioners’ refusal to jointly appoint chief operational officers between the CCGs and councils.

Local councillors also accused local NHS bosses in April of trying to merge the three statutory body CCGs by stealth and without consultation, according to the Bedford Today.The CCGs told HSJ the three CCGs were not merging and would remain independent statutory bodies.

BLMK sustainability and transformation partnership is one of 14 health economies involved in NHS England’s ICS programme. They were selected as they were deemed to be more advanced than other areas.

News of the new joint commission role follows significant efforts to merge two of the patch’s acute providers.

Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust had originally intended to take over Bedford Hospital Trust at the start of April 2018, but the acquisition has been delayed by around a year because financial arrangements had not been agreed.

A spokeswoman for three CCGs said: “The [three CCGs] are not merging. By aligning the CCGs more closely, we will strengthen the leadership of the organisations to deliver economies of scale and reduce duplication, while also ensuring that we continue to work at a local level to benefit the health of our populations.”

Ms Davies said: “I am very pleased to have been offered this new role and look forward to working with doctors, other health and care professionals and leaders in the NHS and local authorities across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes to improve and sustain health and care services.

“There are indeed challenges here, as elsewhere, but I believe by working together with staff, partner organisations, residents and communities we will find the right solutions to ensure we can deliver high quality services that meet people’s needs into the future.”

The three CCG chairs, Heather Moulder, Nina Pearson and Nicola Smith said in a statement: “We are delighted to welcome Patricia to Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes. This is an important appointment for us, as we work with partners to establish an integrated care system.

“A clinician by background, Patricia is a strong candidate who demonstrates exceptional leadership and who relishes the challenge of joining us at this pivotal time to improve health and care for people living in our area.”