Local authorities throughout England have signed up to join a network of early implementers of health and wellbeing boards. The boards will remove divisions between the NHS and local authorities and give communities greater say in the services needed to provide care for local people.
The early implementers – 132 local authorities – will create ‘shadow’ health and wellbeing boards in their council.
The boards will bring together those who buy services across the NHS, public health, social care and children’s services, elected representatives and representatives from HealthWatch to plan the right services for their area. They will look at all health and care needs together, rather than creating artificial divisions between services.
Many local authorities already have projects in place to integrate services, including:
- combining health and social care support for dementia suffers to reduce hospital readmissions
- improved communication between health and social care professionals to enhanced the support package offered to vulnerable members of the community
- fast-tracking learning by integrated public health teams in local authorities.
Improved joint working should help ensure that each member of the health and wellbeing board can draw on their strengths, whether that’s clinical expertise, local knowledge or understanding the needs of patients and the public, to help shape commissioning strategies to meet local needs.
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: ‘Local authorities have an in-depth understanding of the public health needs of their populations, but too often they haven’t had the right systems in place to work with the local NHS to get the best health and wellbeing for their people.
‘There are some good examples of local partnership working, but there is scope for far greater join up of health and social care services.’
President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Richard Jones said: ‘Health and Wellbeing Boards are being adopted enthusiastically by local government and their partners as the opportunity to demonstrate that responding to citizen and community needs and aspirations is best done by public services coming together at the local level rather than trying to engineer top down national solutions.
‘The new arrangements need to be honest about the challenges of working with reduced resources. But they also need to be clear about the opportunities of working differently to align our resources, effort and actions in order to support personalised care and community-based support. In this way we can build prevention and the reduction of health inequality into the heart of joint commissioning.’
It is hoped that all local authorities will have shadow boards in place by April 2012. Fully-fledged boards will be up and running in April 2013 at the same time as GP consortia take on responsibility for the NHS budget, subject to Parliamentary approval.