Local Government Chronicle is reporting that plans are nearly finalised for a “health integration board” covering fifteen London Borough Councils and their respective NHS Primary Care Trusts. To be honest the article is rather fuzzy as to what precisely is happening, but the idea is clearly to look at ways of integrating the work of commissioning local health services with the similar work that the Boroughs do in respect of social care. Already the Chief Executive of Hammersmith and Fulham Council doubles as Chief Executive of the Primary Care Trust and there are a number of models of joint commissioning around in London and elsewhere.
The key point in this is that it will be a move to providing some local democratic ownership of NHS decision-making. It runs rather contrary to the approach that is being promoted by the Department of Communities and Local Government whereby local authorities are taking on a wider scrutiny role for local public services in their area (which would obviously includes health). However, as far as the public are concerned, a model that enables their democratically-elected local councillors to take the strategic decisions about the shape of local healthcare is probably more transparent and attractive than a model where those same councillors are merely empowered to ask questions of the unelected bodies that are responsible for the NHS.
The long-term direction of travel remains unresolved and a London Health Integration Board will certainly be worth watching to see what it delivers.