Five councils and two primary care trusts in South Essex are to look at how to save money by combining their commissioning powers across social care, health and housing.
Basildon, Rochford, Castle Point, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock councils, along with NHS South East and NHS South West Essex, are intending to hold a commission of inquiry into closer co-operation across boundaries and between local government and the NHS.
This could result in just one set of commissioners for the area and services re-worked to meet growing financial pressures.
Officers from Thurrock Council are designing terms of reference in time for the commission to hold meetings from September to December.
Christopher Smith, representing Thurrock Council, told the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy social care finance conference last week that the commission would look at a series of issues. These would include the promotion of integrated service pathways, helping service users to navigate the system and integrating existing services such as housing advice and the disabled facilities grant.
It would also look into the future role and use of sheltered housing and residential care to allow more people to live at home for longer, with a greater emphasis on locally-delivered preventive measures.
“We need to think of other ways we can deliver the assistance to people,” Smith said.
Andrew Cozens, the Local Government Association’s strategic lead for adult social care, said co-operation was increasing between councils and PCTs across the country but the depth of the plans being considered in Essex was unusual.
Cozens said that, with the government planning to transfer many of PCTs’ health commissioning powers to GPs, “we can expect a lot more initiatives like this about how best to jointly commission”.