Council leaders have called for face-to-face talks with health secretary Andrew Lansley to answer local authority concerns about his NHS reforms and ensure they do not fail vulnerable groups.
Local Government Association chairman Baroness Eaton has written today to the embattled Lansley inviting him to talk to council leaders at a meeting that the LGA would organise, as part of the government’s two-month ‘listening exercise’ to consider objections to its Health and Social Care Bill.
Lansley was forced to announce a pause in the passage of the controversial legislation and set up a listening panel after ongoing criticisms about the bill, which will hand most of the NHS budget to consortia of GPs, and abolish primary care trusts and strategic health authorities.
Eaton raised concerns that GPs would focus on commissioning care for people they had contact with, failing vulnerable groups such as the homeless or people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or HIV/Aids.
“We believe the bill needs to be more explicit to avoid gaps in the provision of services to vulnerable groups that do not traditionally access GP care,” she said.
The LGA has already proposed amendments to the bill to require GP consortia to work with councils on the provision of services for those with complex needs or at risk of poor health outcomes or social exclusion.
She also repeated LGA calls for consortia to be made more accountable to health and well-being boards, which will be set up as part of local authorities to oversee local health and social care services.
She said consortia should have a duty to co-operate with boards – currently the legislation only requires them to “have regard to” the boards. She also said that boards should have a duty to sign off consortia’s commissioning plans “to ensure that a fully open, transparent and democratic process surround commissioning decisions”.
Eaton also called for clarity over whether GP consortia or the national NHS Commissioning Board would be responsible for commissioning continuing care and free nursing care for nursing home residents – responsibilities that currenlty sit with PCTs.
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