Concern over health board

The Mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond
The Mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond

HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has expressed concern about new health and wellbeing boards “diluting” council powers.

Responsibility for public health and health services is being transferred from primary care trusts to local authorities and part of that is to create these new statutory boards.

The aim is to bring together the NHS, local authorities and health watchdogs.

Plans are still in the early stages and it is not yet clear what role the new boards, which will be made up of a majority of councillors, will play.

Mayor Drummond said he does not have a problem if it is about making the people who make health-related decisions more accountable.

But he said it would be a problem if decisions currently taken by Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee were taken away.

He raised concerns after it was noted in a cabinet report that health and wellbeing boards would be able to “discharge executive functions” of the local authority.

It is not yet clear what that will mean in practical terms and councillors are waiting on more clarification from the Government.

Cabinet members met to discuss the new boards and to approve plans to create a shadow board while the details are “worked through”.

Mayor Drummond, who will be chairman of the shadow health and wellbeing board, said: “If it makes the NHS more accountable by involving us then fine, but if it is diluting our powers then I have a problem with that.

“It needs to be worked through.”

Louise Wallace, assistant director of health improvement for NHS Hartlepool, said the health and wellbeing board does not have to be in place until April 2013.

A key part of the new structure will be that board meetings will be held in public and the majority of the board would be elected councillors.

Labour councillor Ged Hall said: “As we are setting a shadow board we have an opportunity to establish a way forward and an agenda that suits Hartlepool.

“I hope that the Government is serious about giving members concrete roles about how health services may look in Hartlepool.”

Labour councillor Robbie Payne added: “It is the first time in a long time that a Government has made elected members a majority on a board.

“At least we should be able to shape it how we want it to work in Hartlepool.”

The council’s cabinet committee will receive further reports on health and wellbeing boards in the future.