Two councils and a community trust in London are to consider plans to integrate provision of health and social care services.
The move, should it take place, would result in the creation of the first integrated care organisation since the introduction of the coalition government’s NHS reforms.
Hounslow LBC, Richmond LBC and Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust are expected to rubber stamp a feasibility study into the idea later this month. The work would take place over the next six months, with a report expected in December.
Hounslow chief executive Mary Harpley told LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal the three organisations would then decide early in the new year whether the integrated care organisation was a “go or no go”.
“The earliest it can be in place is September 2013,” she said. “We would be the first to do this under new NHS arrangements.”
If introduced, the plans would initially see the integrated body providing community health and social care services for older people and adults with physical disabilities. The councils and two local clinical commissioning groups would separately commission services from the new provider.
Cathy Kerr, director of adult and community services at Richmond, which is understood to be more cautious about the plans, said the move should save money through increased efficiency and reduced duplication of work, but highlighted this was not the “main driver” behind the idea.
“What’s driving this piece of work is, can we achieve better outcomes for older people by better integration of health and social care,” she said.
Ms Kerr noted that it was the “best time and the worst time” to be considering creating an integrated health and care trust. She said the reforms offered a “good opportunity” to try something new, but equally there were many “distractions”, such as the CCG authorisation process.
In a statement, Richard Tyler, chief executive of Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the trust and the two councils to develop a new model for integrated health and social care that will bring real benefits for the residents of Hounslow and Richmond.”
There are currently 12 care trusts, jointly providing health and social care services. The newest, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust, was created in April and is the biggest joint provider of health and social care in England.
The health select committee warned in a report in February that the progress made by care trusts on integration was at risk from the government’s reform programme.
It noted that the effectiveness of many care trusts, which had previously been commissioners and providers, had been diminished by the transfer of commissioning to primary care trust clusters and subsequently CCGs.