Full steam ahead for health changes
Published: Tuesday 21st December 10
Wandsworth has proved ahead of the game as it prepares to pioneer the return of public health services to local authorities.
Members of the executive group of the new Wandsworth Health and Wellbeing Board, made up of the council, NHS Wandsworth and local GPs, have held their first meeting. The first meeting of the full board will be in January.
They agreed to work together to support GPs in their new commissioning role, and draw up a new Joint Health and Well-being Strategy. All local authorities will be required to set up health and well-being boards, and the Wandsworth group is one of the UK 's first.
Under the changes announced by health minister Andrew Lansley, local authorities will take control of public health services and will get ring-fenced budgets and the licence to set local priorities like reducing heart disease among the poorest residents.
Ministers believe that councils are ideally placed to direct public health initiatives as they have closer links to their communities and can influence a range of environmental factors affecting health, such as housing or unemployment.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles called last week for local authorities to set up the boards - the same day the Wandsworth board had its first meeting.
Public health services are currently managed by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). PCTs are being phased out as part of the Government's NHS reform programme, but local PCT NHS Wandsworth will be active in the board's development.
Currently the PCT commissions health services, but under the changes this will be done by local GP consortia.
The board will be chaired by NHS Wandsworth Chairman Ian Reynolds. The PCT and the council appointed a joint Director of Public Health, Houda Al-Sharifi, some time ago. She will manage the transition over the coming months.
She will be moving to a new office in the town hall early in the new year with key public health staff. Subject to staff consultation, the rest of her team will follow in the future.
After the meeting, leader of Wandsworth Council Edward Lister said:
"Wandsworth is in the forefront of this new way of working. We have set up this board at the earliest possible opportunity so that when these changes come into effect we will hit the ground running.
"We will be able to integrate our new public health role with work we are already doing in areas such as social care, housing and leisure to help people lead healthier, more fulfilled lives."
Board chairman Ian Reynolds said: "The planned changes have provided a welcome catalyst for GPs, the council, and NHS Wandsworth to work even more closely together. I am confident that the borough will be able to look forward to improved health services as a result."