Headlines: April 13th, 2006

The NHS plans to cut 18 of its 28 Strategic Health Authorities. The boundaries of the new ten enlarged Authorities have been drawn to match the Government Offices of the Regions areas. This new boundary alignment will foster better joint working between health and local government agencies. Joint working is likely to be further supported with the pending re-organisation of Primary Care Trusts due to be announced shortly.Cutting the number of Strategic Health Authorities will save money by streamlining management and administration so that greater resources can be dedicated to patient care.

A major element of the efficiency savings from reducing the number of Authorities will come from sharing back room services such as administration, human resource functions and accounts as well as by bringing together procurement staff. Sharing services is a key element of the Cabinet Office strategy ‘Transformational Government’ and is seen as the big winner in achieving the Gershon efficiency targets.

At a recent conference Ian Watmore, Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, warned council IT managers that shared services were “no longer optional” and he indicated that sharing would become mandatory by linking the policy to funding. Sharing services in the NHS will become a test bed for extending the concept across the public sector and particularly to councils because of their similar organizational structures and standard processes.

A survey by Public Sector Forums, a leading independent network for eGovernment practitioners, representing UK local authorities and their central government counterparts, found that two-thirds of council managers support the Government’s shared services agenda. The survey also found that around a fifth of councils are already implementing a shared service.