Local authorities are supporting coalition government plans that could see them having a greater role in health commissioning.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley yesterday outlined his plans for primary care trusts to transfer most of their health commissioning responsibilities to GPs, during which he said that groups of family doctors could ask their local council for help with commissioning.
In the podcast interview on doctors.net.uk, Lansley indicated that council support for GP commissioning could be a viable option to help drive integration between health and social care.
Under coalition government plans, PCTs, which currently commission primary health care, seem likely to be reduced in number as they increase in geographical spread. Currently they mostly share boundaries with local authorities.
This is likely to be confirmed in a white paper, which is expected next month, and which could look at issues such as co-location of services.
Andrew Cozens, the Local Government Association’s strategic lead for adult social care, said these were radical plans but they suggested a leadership role for local councils in health.
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Richard Jones said the government’s plans offered “significant opportunities” for the integration of care.
He pointed out that GPs and adult social services departments often looked after the same groups of people, particularly people with long-term conditions.
He added: “We are in the last phases of PCTs as we know them and I think local government has an offer to make.”
Jones said he also believed this could provide an opportunity to pull personal budgets into the mainstream of healthcare.
The plan to transfer commissioning powers from PCTs to GPs has been criticised by the chair of the Local Government Association’s improvement board, David Parsons, who said that it would weaken democratic accountability in the NHS.
However Jones said he believed that democratic accountability would come through councils’ greater involvement in health, while the public rarely engaged with PCTs.