By Nick Golding
The government has failed to meet its commitment to ensuring 'at least 77%' of primary care trusts (PCTs) share boundaries with councils.
Announcing the PCT reconfiguration, health minister Andy Burnham said: 'About 70% of the new PCTs will be coterminous with the boundaries of local authorities with social services responsibilities.'
Although an improvement on the previous figure of 44% of top-tier councils sharing boundaries, it is considerably less than that promised by then social care minister Liam Byrne (LGC, 25 January).
Mr Bryne told LGC: 'At least 77% of PCTs will be coterminous with local authorities.'
Although the restructuring should aid joint social care and health projects between councils and PCTs in many counties, which gain shared boundaries for the first time, many previously coterminous unitary councils will now find themselves subsumed into larger trust areas.
The PCT mergers have been driven by the government's desire to slash the NHS's management costs by 15%.
Directors of social care and children's services at many unitary authorities fear that the larger, merged organisations will hamper their opportunity to jointly appoint staff and to pool budgets.
Dawn Warwick, the strategic director of community and cultural services at Slough BC, one of the unitaries to lose shared boundaries, said the new structure failed to take into account the lack of similarity between Slough and the other areas in the new PCT.
She said Slough had a far greater proportion of ethnic minorities and greater problems with diabetes and heart disease than its more prosperous neighbours, Windsor & Maidenhead RBC and Bracknell Forest BC.
'We've worked very closely with our PCT to provide local services for local people. Unless we are very careful this will get diluted,' she said.
'As a result of the change, we've had to put on hold plans to pool budgets and formalise partnerships.'
Medway Council was luckier, having retained shared boundaries with its PCT. The council's chief executive, Judith Armitt, said: 'It's good to have an end to the uncertainty. This did seem like an unnecessary distraction.'