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Local government is uniquely placed to support the hospital sector

Graham Burgess
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NHS England must remember true partnership is a two-way street, says Wirral’s chief executive

NHS England has slowed progress on the better care fund and this seems to show a failure to grasp the potential for local government to assist change in the NHS and in social care.

This lack of understanding of local government’s role is also impacting on the improvement of services, mainly for older people, and the ability to make changes to start relieving pressure on the acute sector.

So I find it ironic that at the LGA conference, head of NHS England Simon Stevens called for local government support in making the public argument for change in acute sector reconfigurations.  

Mr Stevens quoted the “incredibly effective” Greater Manchester Healthier Together model, in which the 10 councils in the combined authority area are actively involved in the consultation and review of health and social care reform, primary care, joined-up care and in-hospital care.

While I’m sure the changes to care will be very testing, the fact that Manchester authorities will be involved in consulting, promoting and explaining the detail will increase the level of success.

Similarly in the Liverpool city region we are facing an overprovision of hospitals which are not sustainable in the long term, especially if we wish to find the resources to fund community and social care.

Local government is willing, and uniquely able, to assist in this review process but as yet this seems to have stalled, which is perhaps not surprising given the pending general election.

Councils are the only democratic body in an area and therefore local government buy-in to this change is crucial to try to diffuse the inevitable political debate about service change in the hospital sector. 

I wish that NHS England could show the same trust in local government in relation to the better care fund, and I would remind them that true partnership is a two-way street.

Graham Burgess, chief executive, Wirral MBC

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