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Claim NHS officials treated 'like idiots' by councils in STP process

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Councils engaged in efforts to integrate health and social care services should stop competing for resources with the NHS and considering increased funding for the health service as “theft”, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy has said.

Rob Whiteman, who is chair of the north east London sustainability and transformation plan, also said some NHS officials had reported being spoken to like “an idiot” by their council counterparts due to a budget setting process that allows health organisations to go into deficit.

Speaking at the New Local Government Network conference on Tuesday Mr Whiteman said there was a “culture game going on” between the NHS and local government within some STPs.

He said both the NHS and local authorities need more money but warned councils not to treat the STP process as a “competition” for resources.

Mr Whiteman added: “My advice to local government is to stop acting as if financial growth in the NHS is theft and if money wasn’t being put into the NHS, then you would get it – you wouldn’t.”

He said it was “perfectly reasonable” to say the NHS could be more efficient and needs more money, as health spending is increasing by 2% while demand is rising by 4%.

Mr Whiteman added that some council officials that are required to set a balanced annual budget had been dismissive of their NHS counterparts over finances.

He said: “[Local government] needs more money too and it is not a competition between the two.

“There is an undertone for local government which is ‘You are crap at managing your budgets, you should manage them like us’.

“People on the health side feel it. They say ‘I speak to people on the council and they speak to me like I’m an idiot’.”

Mr Whiteman called for an end to this approach and called on local government to “love your NHS, trust them, work with them”.

His advice to NHS colleagues involved in STPs was to recognise the strength of local government in its political accountability and track record of making difficult decisions in demanding financial circumstances.

Later Nicola Bishop, chief finance officer at Trafford MBC, questioned whether having 37 financial directors involved in the Greater Manchester STP was “sustainable”.

St Helens MBC chief executive Mike Palin also challenged the logic of attending the Cheshire and Merseyside STP meetings as up to 68 officers were involved.

He said: “We have opted out of two meetings. I sit down with the accountable officer in the clinical commissioning group, which is coterminous [to the council], and have a sensible conversation about the same population.

“I can’t understand how it works in other areas.”

This week the King’s Fund called on STP leaders to prioritise “meaningful engagement” with local authorities and the public in order to develop credible plans for health and social care integration.

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