Board approves shared health management team

The Barkantine Centre gets services commissioned by NHS Tower Hamlets. Photo: NHS Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets has approved proposals for sharing the management of health services with Hackney and Newham.

At a meeting of the Tower Hamlets Board this week, directors discussed plans to have a single management team and a chief executive for the three primary care trusts, NHS City and Hackney, NHS Newham and NHS Tower Hamlets.

The proposals are in response to tightening public sector finances and the changes set out in the government’s White Paper on health, which states the need to cut management costs by nearly 50 per cent.

The White Paper, ‘Equity and Excellence- Liberating the NHS’ which was released in July, also proposes the abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCT), who are in charge of commissioning services for patients, by April 2013. Before they are phased out, PCT management costs in East London will need to be reduced from £29.4m to £15.4m, a cut of 48 per cent.

A single team overlooking the three East London PCTs means that this level of reduction is more likely to be achieved without compromising the delivery of health services.

Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets, Alastair Camp, said that if Tower Hamlets did not go ahead with the proposals it would be “a chaotic situation and the ability to support GPs would be compromised” due to a smaller cost base.

However, there have been concerns about how the new management team will be appointed and the 130 or more job losses that will occur.

Marion Ford- Hutchinson, Chair of the Community Health Services Board described the “absolutely superb staff” who manage NHS Tower Hamlets and stressed that “we have to be fair in the way we select them” for the single management team.

Some fear that sharing a single team will mean that services are less tailored to the needs of communities within Tower Hamlets.

Over the past few months PCT mergers have been proposed across London to meet management cost reductions within the NHS. Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have agreed to share a single management framework as well as Ealing, Hillington and Houslow forming another team under a single chief executive.

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