Headlines: January 21st, 2011

The Health Bill proposes wide-sweeping reform of the NHS, by placing greater commissioning powers in the hands of GPs and by giving local authorities responsibility for delivering public health improvements. London Councils and the Society of IT Management call for the reforms to support closer working between the NHS and local councils.

London Councils argues that such a significant change to the health service can only be achieved through GPs working closely with local government to tap into their commissioning experience and understanding of the local population.

Greater collaboration between health and council-based social care services will also ensure resources are used more efficiently, as both services work together to reduce the need for more expensive treatment in hospitals.

London Councils’ Executive Member for Health and Adult Services Councillor Colin Barrow said: “The proposed Bill will bring about considerable change for the nation’s health services and they are going to need local authorities to help steer them through this turbulent period. He added: But we can also help them deliver a more efficient health service. By breaking down the barriers between health and social care, we will be able to deliver the services our residents want despite shrinking budgets.

Socitm President Jos Creese believes that local councils can play a vital part in these changes. Not only can democratically elected local politicians reflect local priorities, but local government infrastructure can be made available to assist in the join up and sharing of information which will be essential to help GPs to fulfil their new role.

But there is concern that top-down, large-scale, supply and technology-led approaches to information management and systems that have prevailed in the NHS in the past have failed to deliver effective outcomes for a variety of reasons. The main reason has been failure to involve patients, service users, clinicians, care professionals and the public in their development and implementation.

The Society believes that smaller scale, regional or sub-regional groups of local authorities should lead on provision of information systems to support allocation of health and social care resources.