• Northumberland CCG appoints interim accountable officer after sudden departure of Steven Mason last month
  • Vanessa Bainbridge took up the role at the beginning of the month alongside her position as Northumberland County Council’s adult social care director
  • The joint council-CCG role is intended to pave the way for creating the Northumberland ACO

A clinical commissioning group at the centre of plans to set up a new accountable care organisation has appointed a new interim accountable officer.

Northumberland CCG has appointed Vanessa Bainbridge to the role after the sudden resignation of Steven Mason last month.

Ms Bainbridge will hold a joint council and CCG position, becoming interim accountable officer alongside her role as the county council’s director of adult social care.

Her predecessor was chief executive of Northumberland County Council but he stood down following the local council elections, when the Conservatives replaced Labour as the council’s largest party. He had been confirmed in the joint role in January as part of plans to pave the way to create the Northumberland ACO vanguard.

The CCG confirmed when Mr Mason stood down from the council he was no longer be able to fulfil his role as accountable officer, because as the progression towards the ACO required a link between the local authority and CCG.

Ms Bainbridge took up the role at the beginning of this month, but the CCG announced the appointment today.

She said: “I’m delighted to be given this opportunity to fulfil this role and support both the CCG and the strategic commissioning function.

“I’m very much looking forward to continuing the excellent progress we have already made and to build on the working relationships with our colleagues in the council and NHS, to truly transform care for the people of Northumberland.”

HSJ revealed plans for the joint role in December, but the move was delayed because Mr Mason and NHS England had not reached an agreement on the appointment.

Mr Mason left the council last month immediate effect to “pursue new challenges”, while the county council’s deputy chief executive Daljit Lally is now acting as interim chief executive.

HSJ understands the role was created to allow the council and CCG to effectively form one commissioning body for health and social care. The organisations cannot formally merge because legally both must continue to exist to fulfil their statutory commissioning duties.

The Northumberland ACO was due to go live in April but has been delayed indefinitely.

Today NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced the first eight regions which will become accountable care systems. Although Northumberland had previously been named as likely candidate, it was not among the eight listed today.

When it launches, the ACO will take on the budgets for all services except primary care, making it a “partially integrated” primary and acute care system covering a population of 320,000.

Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust will hold the single contract for acute, mental health, community services and adult social care. The trust was the only provider to express an interest in running the new care model when a prior information notice was launched last September.

When the ACO goes live the majority of the CCG’s staff will be moved over to the trust, while the rest will remain part of the CCG to fulfil its statutory commissioning duties.