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PRIMARY HEALTH CARE AND LOCAL GOVERNANCE: SOLIHULL PILOT

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Solihull MBC is asking health secretary Frank Dobson to approve a special pilot to enable a new primary health and ...
Solihull MBC is asking health secretary Frank Dobson to approve a special pilot to enable a new primary health and social care commissioning agency to be set up to serve local residents and for a new strategic health authority to serve Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire.

The report sets out concerns about local health services and the lack of accountability to local people for what is happening to their NHS services. It deals with the principles underpinning the ideas for change and accepts the need to work out the details in partnership with local general practitioners who would be the local authority's partners in the new agency.

The potential benefits of the new approach for local people are considerable:

-- Removal of organisational barriers to better services for health and social care

-- Integration of public health into the wider regeneration agenda

-- Maintenance of the integrity of the NHS

-- Development of health and social care in partnership with GP's

-- Simpler access to local care services

-- Improved value and reduced bureaucracy

-- An end to 'cost shunting' between health and social care

In putting forward the proposal, which has received unanimous support from the council's corporate strategy committee, we recognise that there may well be some managerial and sectional opposition. The council accepts there are still some details to be worked out but want to do this with partner agencies. The local authority has a legitimate interest in health matters. The proposals are believed to be in the best interests of local people who will be asked to give their views about them.

An early meeting with the secretary of state to discuss the proposals for change has been requested. The report has been copied to the full ministerial teams and to the council's two members of parliament.

Council leader Michael Corser:

'A people's NHS can only become a reality if local people have a real say in their NHS through their locally elected councillors. Local accountability on the decisions and issues of concern to local people are very weak. Some critical decisions are coming up and it's time for people to have a say. We support the government's aim of creating a people's NHS - our report shows them how it can be achieved in Solihull. We are not alone in having these concerns and in some ways the debate about the future has begun already. We want to help shape that future for the benefit of local people. What is most important about these ideas is that they have the support of all the parties on the council - we have a strong case for a change whose time has come.'

Jim Ryan, chairman of the member strategic advisory group which produced the report, said:

'Local councillors have worked hard on this report and I believe the report is very timely. Over recent months we have met with and talked about the problems of our local NHS with all the key players. We believe it is right the ideas within it are discussed widely and that they will command public support. The council has a legitimate interest in health issues and in the changes we have seen and others that seem likely to happen.'

'We had to make a choice, in the interests of the people of Solihull, whether to wait on events or to shape them. In a week when some 30 NHS trusts have been merged, I believe we are right to try to influence events - to do otherwise would have been to fail local people. Their views about all this are going to be very important to us. '

Hugh Hendry, chairman of the social services committee, said:

'The local democracy issue and what is likely to be best for local people has been central to our thinking. What this report offers is the chance to test out the bringing together of health and social care in a local democratic framework. Too many decisions affecting the health care of local people seem to be made outside of Solihull. The prospect is that, unless we do something, few if any decisions will be made locally. I believe we can achieve what the report offers: better health and social care services and less bureaucracy.'

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