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Health Action Zones will be established across the NHS by April, Health secretary Frank Dobson announced today. ...
Health Action Zones will be established across the NHS by April, Health secretary Frank Dobson announced today.

HAZs will be set up to overcome barriers between health and local authorities and between professions, particularly in areas of high deprivation.

Mr Dobson said:

'A vital part of our vision for a fair, modern and strong health service will be Health Action Zones. They will help health service organisations, local authorities, community groups, charities and local businesses to forge innovative new partnerships - to improve health and modernise services.'

Bids to run Health Action Zones will need the explicit backing of a consortium of local agencies, he said. Strong evidence will be needed to demonstrate their commitment to overcoming barriers.

Ministers will look for proposals which will have a significant impact and which will generate a range of initiatives such as:

-- a network of one-stop primary care centres that include pharmacy, optician, dental and drug-counselling services as well as the doctor's surgery

-- one-stop clinics to investigate problems and make appointments for follow-up treatment

-- healthy living centres working with schools to improve pupils' diet and fitness

-- joint management of budgets by health authorities and social services to provide better co-ordinated services for the elderly

Other opportunities for Health Action Zones will include piloting alternatives to the internal market, reducing the burden of

bureaucracy and access to the special assistance fund to promote strategic change in the NHS.

Partnerships will have to show that they have identified the health needs of their area and have a five year outcome-based plan. All bidders will be encouraged to develop proposals for healthy living

centres as part of their bid.

The department of health will be writing to the chief executives of health authorities and trusts, as well as to chief executives of local authorities and directors of social services. Applications will have to be received by 23 January.

Health Action Zones will get support from the department of health to tackle problems and a small development unit will help the first wave of initiatives and encourage other waves to follow.

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