Headlines: September 18th, 1998

The Government could be about to change the law to make the providers of health and social services work better together.

The Government says ‘Partnership in Action’ will remove barriers to joint working. One major proposal is to introduce new powers to enable pooled budgets, with health and social services placing their resources in a single budget available to both organisations to commission and provide services.

It could lead to a single authority, either the local council, the health authority or Primary Care Trusts, taking the lead role for commissioning health and social care, cutting waste and duplication, and giving better value for money.

Another proposal is to extend the one-stop-shop idea, with NHS Trusts or PCTs providing social care services; or social services in-house providers providing community health services, such as chiropody and physiotherapy.

To ensure that work across boundaries is happening, the Government will introduce measures to monitor and review progress towards joint objectives. For the first time, joint priorities guidance will be issued for both the NHS and social services.

Health Minister Paul Boateng said: ” Major structural change is not the answer. Nor are we looking at the NHS becoming a significant provider of social care, or vice versa. What counts is what works. Local agencies will be encouraged to go for options that bring the greatest advantages for local people.

Responses to the proposals are needed by 31 October. These will be assessed before the Government brings forward legislation designed to allow health and social services to implement new measures early in the year 2000.

‘Partnership in Action’ is published by the Department of Health and is free. It is available from the NHS Response Line on 0541 555455 or on the Internet at www.open.gov.uk/doh/pia.htm