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Regional leadership on health

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A proposal to prevent councils spending their social care budgets on other services by ringfencing funding has been made in a report by the Commons health select committee.

This was suggested as a way to protect social care services from cuts. Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell (Con) said it was important an assurance was given that social care resources would not be used for other purposes by local authorities.

I’m sure some councils would agree with this approach but not for the reasons given by Mr Dorrell. It would highlight the significant amounts of non-statutory budgets allocated to highways, arts or leisure for example, which are currently diverted to prop up underfunded social care services.

By taking a regional approach and considering joint funding, the project becomes more realistic

However, I can’t agree. I believe councils should hold a non-ringfenced, fully integrated budget for health and social care, which can be allocated to any service that could improve health outcomes and reduce the need for NHS services in a community.

But on to more important things. I recently attended a meeting with nine council chief executives and north west employers to discuss how we can take the health agenda forward.

Key themes emerging for the region were: how can we progress the integration of health and local government service provision and commissioning services? How can we link in to the complex structure of Public Health England, NHS England local area teams, clinical commissioning groups and acute trusts when boundaries don’t correspond? How can we follow up on potential shared service opportunities?

An example of a shared service is a public health service led by Wirral MBC which supports nine local authorities in Merseyside and Cheshire. I am discussing how we can build on this. All authorities need clinical expertise, but not all can maintain the level of expenditure needed for clinical professionals who are paid in excess of £100,000. However, by taking a regional approach and considering jointly funding six professionals between nine authorities, the project becomes more realistic.

The chief executives’ plan is to meet regularly to provide regional leadership on health. We are planning a conference in the autumn to show how the north-west is leading the way in integration and providing a local government influence within health in the region.

Graham Burgess, chief executive, Wirral MBC

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