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30.06.16

Integrated services 'clearer' in STPs led by local authority leaders

Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) should be used to deliver “a new vision” of integrated public services, with full local authority involvement, the chair of the NHS Confederation has said.

Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell is the independent chair of the Birmingham and Solihull STP board, which is one of just three in the country to have a leader from local government instead of the NHS (Mark Rogers, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council.)

Speaking at the Health+Care Conference, he said that having a local authority lead in an STP “reduces the risk of the STP simply talking to itself”.

He added: “If the programme is to work, it seems to me it’s essential – it’s not an add on, it’s something which needs to be top and centre – that the STP process is about embedding the national health service in a broader range of public services.”

Dorrell said Birmingham and Solihull’s work showed that STPs are “an extraordinary opportunity to create a new civic agenda” and cited Sir Howard Bernstein’s leadership of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which recently became the first in the country to gain control of health services, as a model.

“If Howard was here,” Dorrell said, “he would say, as he always does, this is not about changing public services, this is about creating a sustainable community and engaging all of public services around the subject of a population and a place.”

He said that this should cover areas including employment, education and housing as well as health and care and that existing silos should be encouraged to work together.

“This is about starting in a completely different place and seeking to create a new vision of what supported public services ought to look like,” said Dorrell. “That seems to me to be the opportunity created by STPs. It’s clearer in those STPs that are led by local authority system leads.”

A recent PSE investigation found that just 36 out of 114 local councils were involved in STP leadership discussions.

Dorrell also said that elected mayors weren’t necessarily needed to oversee greater changes in elected care.

“Personally I’ve been a supporter of elected mayors because I think it’s a way of crystallising accountability and change,” he said, “but what’s much, much, more important is that this process, whatever the precise structure of local government, is seen to be a process by which the health and care sector is embedded in local government.”

At another Health+Care session, Margaret Wilcox, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said that integrated care was vital for resolving social care funding shortages.

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