Question mark over integration of senior posts as Ross quits health role

The country’s first joint social services director and primary care
trust chief executive role has been “dismantled” after a
disagreement over whether the holder of the post should be

Barking and Dagenham Council announced that Julia Ross had given up
responsibility for running Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust
because the PCT wanted to dismiss her after it was given a zero
star rating in July.

The local authority said this was unfair given the insufficient
funding the PCT had received from the government in an area of high
deprivation, and decided to “dismantle” the role. Ross will now
revert back to being director of social services at the council.

The disagreement represents a major blow to the government’s
integration agenda. 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 and has been copied by
other councils including Southwark and Knowsley.

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

He said Ross was given a positive appraisal in May, and could not
believe the PCT wanted to remove her so soon afterwards. He put it
down to a greater tendency in the health service to blame
individuals for an organisation’s performance shortcomings.

Four other joint posts will be changed, Farrant said, so the staff
involved will go back to working either for the council or for the
PCT. Farrant said he did not want any employee of the council to
also be answerable to the PCT board.

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

Ross, who retains her role representing social services on the NHS
Modernisation Board, said she still believed a joint role across
the two organisations was the right policy, but admitted it “may
have to be done differently”.

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