Masterclass: NHS and local government

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I looked forward to this event given the current wide interest in local government and the NHS working together. I came away having valued the input of the speakers.

Clearly, we in the NHS still pay too little attention to working across our localities with all players. The recent health bill has put local government in the driving seat of change alongside GPs, and this new situation will only be reinforced and strengthened by the Coalition’s current attention to integration.

Dr Janet Atterton, President of the Association of Directors of Public Health, told us that Public Health professionals were nervous about moving over to local government but that they are starting to feel empowered by working within local political structures and providing expert advice on real issues for their area.  Janet left me feeling that Health and Wellbeing Boards have the chance to make a real difference to a place.

Barry Quirk, Chief Executive of Lewisham Borough Council, got us reflecting on what public leadership is.  He challenged us to think differently about our role as leaders and to be bold in launching new services, not just incrementally to try and improve the ones we have.

Jon Glasby, Director of Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham, said that there is a lot of rubbish talked about integration and partnership and not to get caught up in that.  Pay attention to what doesn’t work for patients now.  He warned us to concentrate on outcomes – not process or structure.  An older person does not ask for integrated management structure when in crisis!  That left us in the audience feeling more than a little uncomfortable about the recent reorganisation and its impact.

I left thinking  we need to start paying better attention as we move forward to working with our partners on the problems we face that will not be solved by the NHS talking to itself.  We should take the opportunity now to use the reforms to help us with our local authority partners, area by local authority area, to work on the real and present challenges we face.

I know that local government is up for doing this with us.