NHS restructuring will delay health and care partnership

Progress towards closer working between health
and social services will be delayed by at least six months as a
result of internal restructuring within the NHS, local authorities
warned last week.

Delegates attending a policy session on the
way forward for health and social care heard that the changes
outlined in the government’s document published this summer,
Shifting the Balance of Power in the NHS, would leave health
organisations with no choice but to focus on internal changes
rather than partnership arrangements.

The document proposes replacing the 95 health
authorities in England with around 30 strategic health authorities
from April 2002, and making primary care trusts the lead NHS
organisations with responsibility for assessing need, planning and
securing all health services, and improving health in their

Chief executive of Herefordshire health
authority and director of health, housing and social care at
Herefordshire Council Richard Humphries said: “The NHS will be
looking at its own internal structures instead of outwards at the
partnerships. That will set the process back. It’s going to need
six months from April to settle down.”

Acting chief executive of Sandwell health
authority and executive director for social exclusion and health at
Sandwell Council Dave Martin urged local authorities to be patient
with their health colleagues.

“It’s about having confidence,” he said. “We
need to do everything we can to keep key players doing pretty much
what they were doing before. If they turn up in a different
structure it doesn’t matter – they won’t change their spots.”

Martin predicted that “re-engagement” with
health partners post-restructuring would be gradual, with several
phases. “Everyone has a very complicated set of changes ahead of
them, and at the same time we are trying to turn round and
modernise services,” he said.

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