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Herefordshire pioneers PCT and council merger

Published on 12/12/07 at 10:32am

A revolutionary new 'public service trust' has been created in Herefordshire, and will be the first to integrate a PCT and local council under the leadership of one chief executive.

Chris Bull, previously deputy chief executive of the London borough of Southwark, has been selected to head the new combined trust.

It will operate from a pooled budget and try to bring a joined-up approach to public health, social care and NHS patient services.

Herefordshire council and PCT have a good history of working together, and say the advantages of taking a combined approach are numerous.

"A major benefit for clinical services would be the potential for more integrated and flexible services for patients, as the 'commissioners' of those services would be working much more closely together.

"The need for integrated plans for patients with, for example, a combination of health, housing and health promotion needs, would all be tackled by one commissioning body, which would be more accountable and transparent to healthcare professionals," they said in joint statement.

It is undecided exactly how the two bodies and their management will slot together, and to what degree, though they will remain two legally separate entities.

Commissioning of patient services in the community has been at the core of all new major government reforms for primary care, but Herefordshire council leader Roger Philips admitted to the Health Service Journal there had been little interest in the project from Whitehall.

He said: "They have not taken a great interest in us at all. We haven't had any pump-priming money, so have had to struggle with it on our own. "

The PCT has a budget of £233 million and the council was allocated £230 million, but once the quota for education is removed, the combined public service trust will be left with around £300 million.

It has been agreed that an interim public service trust board will be set up by January, with public service trust arrangements formalised by September 2008.

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