Lewis touts idea of well-being minister

Care services minister Ivan Lewis has called for the next prime minister to appoint a minister for health and well-being to forge ­integration between the NHS and local government.

Lewis, who is backing chancellor Gordon Brown to succeed Tony Blair, said the position would provide national leadership for the integration of councils and primary care trusts to promote community well-being and shift services from acute to preventive care.

This shift was recommended in last year’s health and social care white paper.

However, PCT restructuring and the NHS financial crisis, which has led to claims of PCTs shunting costs to councils, have put partnerships under pressure.

Lewis said: “Collaboration between PCTs and local authorities is increasingly important and I think a ministerial role that reflected that would probably make a more significant impact more quickly. You need to join up at a national level as well as a local level.”

The position would cut across the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government and Lewis said the relationship between the two ministries needed to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, Herefordshire Council is planning to fully merge with the area’s primary care trust to create the UK’s first combined public service trust.

The new body, which would be established in shadow form in October and fully set up by April 2008, would have a budget of about £500m and 8,000 staff.

The changes are intended to improve value for money through savings from senior management costs and the joint planning and delivery of services.

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