Councils to lose shared boundaries with PCTs

More than one in six English councils will lose their shared boundaries with local primary care trusts, putting social care and health partnerships at risk, under final recommendations to government from NHS bosses.

The proportion of councils sharing a boundary with a single PCT will rise from 44 per cent to almost 78 per cent, in line with Department of Health calls for reforms to improve partnership working, under the strategic health authority (SHAs) plans submitted this month.

But SHAs rejected alternative proposals that would have resulted in coterminosity in almost every area, while shared boundary arrangements in 27 councils will be broken up by the drive to enlarge PCTs.

In most of these cases, SHAs decided that coterminous PCTs would be too small to fulfil the other conditions for reform set by the DH, notably strengthening commissioning and making 15 per cent savings in each area.

The changes could devastate partnerships; 13 of the 27 areas to lose coterminosity have local area agreements, which depend on close partnerships between councils and PCTs and are seen by the DH as a crucial vehicle for delivering its health and social care white paper.

Ann Baxter, corporate director for children, education and social care at Stockton-on-Tees Council, one of the 13, blamed the decisions on the 15 per cent savings target.

“It distorts the issue,” she said. “Given the white paper was clearly supportive of coterminous arrangements, there’s a certain irony about proposals to reduce them.”

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