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More cohesive care promised as councils back Health and Wellbeing Boards

16th March 2011

Plans to better shape local services around the needs of communities have been given a boost as Care Services Minister Paul Burstow unveils that almost 90 per cent of all local authorities have signed up to be early implementers of new cross-working boards.

It means patients and the public should experience a more joined-up service from the NHS and local councils in the future. The move is part of broader plans to modernise the NHS to keep up with the increasing demand on services, an ageing population and rising costs of new drugs and treatments and ensuring high quality, efficient services for patients.

134 local authorities have signed up to join a network of early implementers for health and wellbeing boards that will strip away divisions between the NHS and local authorities.

It will give communities a greater say in the services needed to provide care for local people and to tackle the wider influencers of health such as transport, housing and leisure services.  Examples of projects already underway include:

  • combining health and social care support for dementia sufferers to reduce hospital readmissions;
  • improved communication between health and social care professionals to enhanced the support package offered to vulnerable members of the community; and
  • fast-tracking learning by integrated public health teams in local authorities.

It is also announced today that West Sussex  PCT chief executive John Wilderspin will join the Department to support local implementation the boards.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:

“Local authorities have an in-depth understanding of the public health needs of their populations, but too often they haven’t had the right systems in place to work with the local NHS to get the best health and wellbeing for their people.

“The reality is the NHS must updated in order to keep up with the increasing demand on services, an ageing population and rising costs of new drugs and treatments.

“There are some good examples of local partnership working, but there is scope for far greater joining up of health and social care services.

“That’s why we’re making health and wellbeing boards a statutory requirement. There will be a common, flexible framework for the boards, which will set out their minimum membership and core functions. It is incredibly encouraging to see that so many local authorities want to be at the forefront this initiative.”

On the appointment of John Wilderspin, Paul Burstow added:

“The successful development of health and wellbeing board early implementers across the country is vital to the Government's vision for reforming the health and care system.

“That is why I am delighted that someone of John's calibre has agreed to join us as National Transition Director for Health and Wellbeing Boards. His experience at both a national and local level will be vital in leading a learning network for early implementers that will focus on understanding the key opportunities and challenges.”

John Wilderspin said:

"I am delighted to be leading the national implementation of health and wellbeing boards. A strong partnership between the NHS and local government is essential if we are to deliver further improvements in health care, social care and public health, and ensure the very best use of our combined resources.

“In my current role in West Sussex we have forged excellent relationships leading to real benefits for local people, and I look forward to using that experience in my new role."

In Leicestershire – one of the trailblazer councils – a number of schemes are already in place to integrate services. These include ‘Fit for Work’, a service to get people who are signed-off sick from work and in danger of going long-term sick, back to work sooner. The partnership between the local NHS, local authority and job centre plus works with occupational health advisor to identify long-term absenteeism with the help of local GPs. It has already worked with 400 clients with a success rate of 66 per cent.

Elsewhere the county has started to integrate substance misuse by pooling the budget across the police, trading standards and health services. In Leicestershire, alcohol abuse costs £60 million a year – more than drugs. It is early days but by commissioning services collectively, they will save the public purse and foster better cross working.

The early implementers will create ‘shadow’ health and wellbeing boards in their council. The ambition is that all local authorities have shadow boards in place by April 2012. Subject to Parliamentary approval, fully-fledged boards will be up and running in April 2013 at the same time as GP consortia take on responsibility for the NHS budget.

The boards will be a forum for those who buy services across the NHS, public health, social care and children’s services; and for elected representatives and representatives from HealthWatch to come together to talk about how they can work with each other to better the health and wellbeing of people in their area.

Improved joint working should help ensure that each member of the health and wellbeing board can draw on their strengths, whether that’s clinical expertise, local knowledge or understanding the needs of patients and the public, to help shape commissioning strategies to meet local needs.

Local Government Minister Andrew Stunnell said:

"Local people should be at the heart of health service decisions and these reforms will help bridge the gap that can sometimes exist between the NHS and local authorities.

“With over 130 council trailblazers signed up to this new way of working; councillors, health professionals and patient representatives across the country will come together to bring the needs of communities to the top of the health agenda."

President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Richard Jones said:

"Health and wellbeing boards are being adopted enthusiastically by local government and their partners as the opportunity to demonstrate that responding to citizen and community needs and aspirations is best done by public services coming together at the local level rather than trying to engineer top down national solutions.

"The new arrangements need to be honest about the challenges of working with reduced resources. But they also need to be clear about the opportunities of working differently to align our resources, effort and actions in order to support personalised care and community-based support. In this way we can build prevention and the reduction of health inequality into the heart of joint commissioning."

Councillor Cliff Morris, Chair of the Greater Manchester Health Commission, said:

"The Health Commission has made good progress already – but we are aware that there is plenty of work still to do. The Health Commission was extremely keen for Greater Manchester to be considered as an early implementer site for health and wellbeing boards and is overseeing exciting reform in Greater Manchester. We hope that this work will go along way to making further health improvements for local people."

Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire Deputy Chief Executive Dean Taylor said:

“The new health and wellbeing board will enable us to build on our unique experiences in Herefordshire, we see the new board – with the Council, the local GP Consortium and a wide range of other partners, working together – as a vehicle for transforming services for local people and making the health and wellbeing of our residents everyone's business"

Leicestershire Director of Public Health Dr Peter Marks said:

“This will enable us to address the causes of ill health from the root causes of people’s living conditions and environment, through enabling lifestyle change to the early detection and treatment of disease as one system. We have already seen the benefits of this close working and the potential benefits the new system will bring are immense.”

 

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