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NHS Chief: HWB conflict would be ‘real problem’


19 July 2011

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Any conflict between GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and new council-led Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) would create "real problems" for the health service, Sir David Nicholson has warned.

In an exclusive interview with GP Business, the NHS Chief Executive and Chief Executive designate of the new National Commissioning Board (pictured) said CCGs would need to work in partnership with local government to ensure improved outcomes for public health.

Any conflict between GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and new council-led Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) would create "real problems" for the health service, Sir David Nicholson has warned.

In an exclusive interview with GP Business, the NHS Chief Executive and Chief Executive designate of the new National Commissioning Board (pictured) said CCGs would need to work in partnership with local government to ensure improved outcomes for public health.

HWBs form part of the government's health reforms and have been given £1m of development funding. They will be responsible for the planning of public health and social care, and will work with CCGs and other organisations to deliver services tailored to the needs of local communities.

"GPs, I'm sure, know how important those services are and how significant they are for patients, so they'll want to engage with them," said Nicholson.

"But they need to engage with them as partners. If [CCGs] get the idea that the HWB is trying to oversee them I think we've got a real problem. They are partners. That's why we don't have any rights of veto, that's why we expect them to work together as equal partners."

The recent NHS Future Forum report recommended that the powers of HWBs be toughened. This led to the government announcing in June that HWBs would have the right to refer back local commissioning plans "not in line with the health and wellbeing strategy".

But Nicholson warned: "If we get into potential supervisory arrangements [between CCGs and HWBs] we've got real problems, and we need to make sure that doesn't happen. If we organise ourselves properly it won't happen."

He admitted:"If I was in a CCG I'd be slightly worried about local governance and HWBs and all of the things around their plans. But I don't think they need to be, because the Commissioning Board is there to support them anyway."

In the interview with GP Business, Nicholson also said his ambition was still to get CCGs in all areas up and running by 1 April 2013, despite the government's announcement of a phased transition, with the Commissioning Board working on the behalf of CCGs not ready by that time.

He also stressed the need for "momentum" now that the listening exercise has concluded. "We need pathfinders to move on… so they can start to take real decisions as soon as possible," he said. "We're absolutely determined to make that happen."

The full interview with Sir David Nicholson will be published in the Autumn issue of GP Business.

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