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PCTs embark on new round of mergers



By Ian Quinn

Another round of major PCT reorganisations is on the way because of the economic crisis, with talks already underway about a string of mergers, Pulse can reveal.

NHS managers are acting on Department of health orders to slash management costs by 30% by 2013/14.

In Essex, talks are already understood to be in an advanced stage about a merger which would see the existing five PCTs brought down to two- North and South Essex.

Catherine O’Connell, chief executive of NHS West Essex, told Pulse on behalf of all Essex PCTs: ‘The Operating Framework for the NHS requires all PCTs to make a 30% saving in commissioning management costs over the next three years.

‘Essex chief executives are in discussions about how best to achieve the saving through sharing resources and reducing duplication whilst continuing to improve local services.

‘We are currently looking at a number of options for Essex PCTs. However no plans have been agreed as yet.’

NHS East of England confirmed the talks claiming the move was ‘locally driven rather than as part of a centrally driven re-organisation.’

Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer, said many GPs would welcome the move to slash spending on PCT bureaucracy, although he expressed concern that it would create a ‘more powerful’ commissioning body and said there was speculation the changes could be rushed through within months.

Meanwhile the three Birmingham PCTs met last week to move forward with plans to create a single commissioning body, with talks also involving Birmingham City Council.

‘A number of work streams are being set up in order to progress this work, which will involve relevant members of staff across the three PCTs and City Council,’ says a report. ‘Further updates will be shared with all staff as this work progresses.’

However, Pulse has also learnt that a string of other trusts are in advanced talks about joining the likes of NHS Herefordshire, NHS Knowsley and NHS Hammersmith and Fulham, which have already launched full management mergers with local councils.

NHS London revealed that at least six PCTs in the capital are now in talks about mergers with local authorities, as part of their bid to escape a £5bn funding crisis.

The move is seen as a key enabler towards the creation of polysystems, with NHS Hammersmith and Fulham having been held up as a pioneer by the SHA for the new model of working.

David Stout, director of the PCT Network, said: ‘Nationally-led reorganisations over the past decade have often created instability and undermined local solutions. Local leaders do not want joint posts simply for the sake of it, but want to coordinate their services.’

Dr Brian Balmer: many GPs will welcome reduction in management costs Dr Brian Balmer: many GPs will welcome reduction in management costs