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ICO pilots 'not in patients' best wishes', NHS Alliance warns

By Lilian Anekwe

The NHS Alliance has launched a scathing attack on one of the first integrated care pilots to run in England, branding it as ‘against the best wishes of both patients and the taxpayer'.

In a response to a consultation on the proposed integrated care pilot scheme run between City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and Church View Medical Practice in Sunderland, the NHS Alliance – a former supporter of integrated care pilots – hit out at the scheme, claiming it may not necessarily benefit patients.

Michael Sobanja, chief executive, NHS Alliance, said: ‘An integrated organisation will not necessarily achieve the delivery of integrated care.

'There is some anecdotal evidence to support this in Northern Ireland where health and social care services have been the responsibility of a single organisation for over 10 years.'

Under the integrated care pilot scheme, City Hospitals Sunderland foundation trust and Church View Medical Practice will merge to become one care organisation with all practice-based clinical staff becoming directly employed by the trust.

This, the Alliance claims, could potentially impact on GPs by influencing their role as an independent advocate for patients, as a gatekeeper for other NHS and hospital services, and would compromise the practice's ability to 'meaningfully engage' in practice-based commissioning.

Mr Sobanja added: ‘How can an employee of a large organisation be guaranteed to offer independent advice when the vested interest of the hospital may be at stake? This may affect the best interests of patients and restrict choice.'

Despite several requests City Hospitals Sunderland foundation trust refused to comment.

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