Argument over dismissal led to break up of pioneering role

Julia Ross

The country’s first joint social services director and
primary care trust executive role was “dismantled”
after a disagreement over whether the holder of the post should be
sacked, it has emerged, writes David

Barking and Dagenham Council announced that Julia Ross would now
only be working as social services director. It said Barking and
Dagenham Primary Care Trust wanted to dismiss Ross after the PCT
was given a zero star rating in July.

The local authority said this was unfair given insufficient
funding for the PCT from the government in an area of high
deprivation, and decided to “dismantle” the role.

The joint post, which was created two years ago, was regarded as
a pioneering move leading the way in closer working between local
government and the NHS. It was copied in a few places
including Southwark and Knowsley. This development will be seen as
a blow to the government’s integration agenda.

Graham Farrant, chief executive of the council, said: “The
PCT wanted a change and the trigger was the zero star

He said Ross was given a positive appraisal in May, and cannot
believe the PCT should want to remove her so soon afterwards. He
blamed a greater tendency to blame individuals for an
organisation’s performance prevalent in the NHS.

Four other joint posts will be changed, Farrant said, so the
staff involved either work for the council or the PCT. He does not
want any employee of the council to also be answerable to the PCT

Carolyn Regan, chief executive of North East London Strategic
Health Authority, said the PCT was completely unaware of the
council’s decision to withdraw Ross, and only found out when
a press release was issued.

She said the council’s timing was “strange” so
soon after the PCT had been given a zero rating and a recovery plan
had been drawn up.

Ross knew the council was planning to end the joint role, and
that the authority had written to the health secretary John Reid
and NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp a week before the announcement
but received no reply

Ross, who retains her role as the social services representative
on the NHS Modernisation Board, said she still believed a joint
role across the two organisation was the right policy. She
didn’t rule out a return to it in Barking and Dagenham, but
she said this was unlikely: “We may have to do it differently
for a period and possibly permanently.”

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