London’s boroughs are on the verge of sealing a deal to dramatically boost integration between councils and the NHS, Local Government Chronicle has learned.

Plans for a “health integration board” of 15 councils and their respective primary care trusts are being finalised by London Councils and NHS London in a bid to stimulate better joint working, as public sector bodies move to slash costs and improve services. 

Barking and Dagenham council chief executive Rob Whiteman, who chairs the chief executives’ London committee and has been involved in setting up the board, said he expected the new body to have 12 to 15 members, including PCT and council chiefs.  

“We have identified 15 local authorities who are interested in integration with their PCTs to differing degrees. They recognise there needs to be a lot more shared posts and joint commissioning,” Mr Whiteman said. 

There needs to be a lot more shared posts and joint commissioning

Rob Whiteman, chief executive Barking & Dagenham LBC

Plans were originally worked up at an event in July hosted by NHS London chief executive Ruth Carnall and Mr Whiteman with details of who is on the board and which boroughs are involved expected to be finalised later this month.

It is also hoped the new venture will be able to learn from Hammersmith and Fulham council, which moved to a joint management structure with its PCT in April. Council chief executive Geoff Alltimes now has a dual role.

The borough became only the second council in England and Wales after Herefordshire Council to share its chief executive with a PCT and Jeff Zitron, chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Trust, said the arrangements were working well.

Joined-up working across the PCT and the council will make services a lot more user friendly for residents and the new model fits with health secretary Andy Burnham’s call to “make every visit count”, Mr Zitron said.

What we are talking about is unified leadership at executive level

Jeff Zitron, chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Trust

He said he did not anticipate conflicts of interest arising as a result of having a joint management structure.

“What we are talking about is unified leadership at executive level. The PCT is still part of the national health service, is answerable to the secretary of state and has both national and London responsibilities. The council knows and respects this,” he said.    

London Councils chief executive John O’Brien said: “From a London Councils perspective, we also think that such collaboration is consistent with our aspiration to move towards greater democratic influence over the commissioning of a wider range of local public services.”

Wigan chief executive Joyce Redfearn, who chairs the Local Government Association’s chief executives task group, welcomed the plans.

“We are talking about these sorts of ideas in Greater Manchester, although we are not as far down the track. A lot of places will be looking at this sort of thing,” she said.  

From Local Government Chronicle.