Funding fears over changes to children’s health services in Hartlepool

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COUNCIL chiefs are set to be handed new responsibility for securing health services for young children.

From October, Hartlepool Borough Council will be taking on the commissioning of public health services for children aged from birth to five through the national Healthy Child Programme.

The Government plans to hand over responsibilities from NHS England to local councils around providing services for five ‘universal checks’.

They are promoting antenatal health visits, new baby reviews; assessments at six to eight weeks old, one year and two and a half.

Council papers stated: “Research evidence shows that these are key times to ensure that parents are supported to give their baby/child the best start in life, and to identify early, those families who need extra help (early interventions).

“These elements are delivered by health visitors or (less often) through the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) as part of an ongoing relationship with families and communities.”

The report says the new arrangements will join-up the commissioning already carried out by councils for public health services for children and young people aged five to 19, and up to 25 for young people with Special Educational Needs and disabilities.

The council is set to receive £761,000 from the Government towards providing the service for the first six months.

But the council’s director of public health, Louise Wallace, has warned it will not be enough.

The report, due to go before tomorrow’s Finance and Policy council committee stated: “The amount indicated in the baseline financial return will not sufficiently cover all the support functions.”

More clarification has also been called for on how the new funding will impact the council’s public health grant.

The council says it is working with current NHS commissioners to ensure a smooth transfer.

The report added: “For 2015/16, the transfer of commissioning responsibilities is in effect a ‘lift and shift’ arrangement where the commissioning responsibility will transfer to the local authority and the existing service provider will continue to be responsible for the service delivery.

“Hartlepool Borough Council’s public health team is working closely with the NHS England Durham, Darlington and Tees Area Team to ensure there is a seamless transition of the service.

“Work is ongoing with the area team, as the outgoing commissioner, to put in place new contracts with existing providers which ensure services are available to patients throughout the transition year.”