Shake-up of PCTs announced

The government has announced its plans for pushing through the shake-up of primary care trusts, initially launched in July.

Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for health, said plans from Strategic Health Authorities had all been received and would now be analysed by an external panel representing key interests.

The panel’s task is to look at how well the SHA’s proposals will meet the criteria for improvement, set out in NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp’s letter in July.

Yet despite one of the key considerations being “improving coordination with social services”, not a single member on the panel comes from a social services background.

Members include:

• Chair – Michael O’Higgins, managing partner of PA Consulting Group

• Jane Barrie, Chair, NHS Confederation

• Joan Saddler, Chair, Waltham Forest PCT

• Harry Cayton, National director for patients and the public, Department of Health

• David Colin-Thome, National Director for Primary Care, Department of Health

• Jennifer Dixon, Director of Policy, Kings Fund

• Liz Fradd, Chief Executive, Nurse Directors Association

• Ara Darzi, Imperial College,

• David Henshaw, Chief Executive, Liverpool Council.

The omission is likely to cause concern and irritation among directors of social services as they gather for their annual conference.

Once the SHA proposals have the panel’s blessing, the proposed changes to PCT boundaries will go out in December 2005 for a three month statutory consultation to all local stakeholders and staff interests.

Hewitt insisted that no decisions would be taken until after this consultation and said that changes to PCTs would not start before April 2006. “Any changes to PCTs role in providing services will take place over a longer timescale and will be subject to consultation in the usual way.”

Hewitt said that staff would be fully involved in deciding the new arrangements and identifying which services would be best for patients.




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