Winter pressures: Health and wellbeing boards should take the reins

Health and wellbeing boards should be at the centre of managing winter pressures to prevent a repeat of the crisis in A&E which forced one London hospital to declare a major incident, says London Councils.

  • By Anonymous (not verified)

The boards, which bring together councillors, patient representatives and representatives of Clinical Commissioning Groups, are best placed to plan and prepare for the excess demand experienced by all health and care services in recent months, argues London Councils in a Seven Point Plan published today. It claims health and wellbeing boards know what to do because they have taken an important role on Better Care Fund plans, which seek to integrate the health and social care system and are due to come into force this April.

Councillor Teresa O’Neill, London Councils’ Executive member for health and wellbeing, has written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, urging them to devolve more responsibility to London health and wellbeing boards. Her call comes after plans were announced last week to give full control of Greater Manchester’s health budget to its Health and Wellbeing board.

Cllr O’Neill said:

“The government’s plans to devolve full control of Greater Manchester’s health spending are hugely encouraging as they re-affirm a commitment to integrating health and social care.

“We believe the only way London can begin to address the huge health and social care challenges it faces is by joining up services better.

“First and foremost, it’s imperative that health and wellbeing boards are involved in planning for winter pressures to prevent the sort of crisis which affected Croydon hospital and others.

“It makes sense that the same people who have been planning for the Better Care Fund should be involved in planning for winter pressures.

“We strongly urge ministers to look closely at this and our other recommendations. Not doing so, risks undermining the great work done so far to better co-ordinate people’s care and could mean we see the same A&E crisis next winter, if not a worse one.” 

The body, which represents all 32 London boroughs and the City of London, is also calling for the government to make the additional £37 million provided to help with winter pressures to be included in yearly council budgets.

Croydon University Hospital and 13 other hospitals nationally declared a ‘major incident’ in January because of the overwhelming numbers attending A&E.

Also receiving letters this week are Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Health, Kris Hopkins, Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Hilary Benn, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as well as Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee and all London MPs.