NLGN says failing PCTs should hand powers to councils

The New Local Government Network has said councils should be given a bigger role in managing local health services where primary care trusts are failing.

In a report, the think-tank said PCTs have been hampered by frequent restructuring and being overly dictated by national targets, and some trusts’ poor financial management and inefficient commissioning has hindered the development of community health services.

The NLGN said that where a PCT struggles to meet its financial and performance targets, the trust and local council should be allowed to appoint joint senior management posts if there is organisational and popular consent.

It also proposed a single chief executive to oversee the PCT and local authority with a trust board made up mostly of elected councillors, as opposed to non-executive directors appointed by central government’s Appointments Commission.

The New Local Government Network paper said demands from doctors for services to meet local needs were more likely to be agreed to by locally elected representatives, who would not be driven to meet Whitehall targets. 

A Local Government Association commission set up in June is examining the idea of giving health commissioning powers to local authorities and former health secretaries Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt have mooted similar ideas.

The move would not only make health services locally accountable, but bring together the commissioning of health and social care into a single organisation.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We agree that local commissioners such as PCTs and local authorities should work together and share their expertise, knowledge and resources, for example in undertaking joint needs assessment. We will be reflecting our vision on how different commissioners can work together in our world class commissioning guidance that we are currently developing.”

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