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Councils argue co-chairing of STPs could help remedy ‘missed opportunities’

Plans to make health and social care more sustainable are being held back because local councils are not being included as equal partners, council leaders in the south east have said.

In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the council leaders said that local government has not been an equal partner in initiatives to deliver greater integrated care such as sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

They say that local councils and NHS bodies should develop a common understanding of integration and include local authorities “as equal partners” in redesigning services, including allowing more care to be delivered at home.

Cllr Roy Perry, deputy chair of South East England Councils (SEEC) and chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “It’s clear the current approach to health and social care is unaffordable in the long-term. Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) could offer a way forward, but are mainly NHS-led and remain largely focused on ‘cure’.

“We feel opportunities are being missed to create partnerships that also draw on councils’ skills in delivering efficient, locally-tailored services that meet people’s needs and focus on prevention.” 

A recent PSE investigation found that over two-thirds of councils were excluded from STP leadership discussions.

The letter lists eight solutions to improving care integration, developed in a joint workshop between SEEC and South East Strategic Leaders (SESL), including encouraging co-chairing between NHS and local authority leaders.

The council leaders also say “a careful re-design of jobs and qualifications” is needed to address the difficulties caused by the “fundamentally different” cultures and structures in the organisations.

One of the arguments in favour of integration is that it will deliver more efficient spending, but the letter warns that the process is currently suffering from a lack of clarity on how to measure savings.

The letter also calls on the government to permanently remove the benefit cap for supported accommodation for groups such as elderly people. It argues that this will address a shortage in the amount of suitable accommodation being built.

The south east is the area with the highest number of residents aged over 75, reaching 800,000 people.

The letter is also signed by Cllr Nicolas Heslop, chair of SEEC and leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council; Cllr Martin Tett, chair of SEEL and leader of Buckinghamshire County Council; and Cllr David Renard, SEEL vice chair and leader of Swindon Borough Council.

A recent report said that integrated care should be ‘business as usual’ by 2020.

On the PSE blog, Cllr Michelle Lowe, deputy leader and cabinet member for Housing & Health at Sevenoaks District Council, recently argued that district councils need to be more involved in STPs.

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