Members of The Highland Council and directors of NHS Highland have unanimously confirmed their intention to progress far-reaching plans to integrate health, education and social care services in the Highlands.
The target date for implementation is April 2012, using a lead agency model that would see NHS Highland provide services for adult community care and the Council providing services for children.
A final report will be presented to a second joint meeting of the two organisations on Thursday 23 June. It will set out the scope of services to be transferred to each lead agency and the governance arrangements to ensure each agency is able to discharge its new responsibilities whilst retaining accountability.
The Council and NHS Highland want to improve front line services by reducing bureaucracy; ensuring front-line services are efficient and cost effective by removing duplication and gaps; making sense to the public and to service users, by having a single, lead organisation responsible for the management and organisation of services; and providing a clear framework for improved leadership and enhanced public accountability.
Garry Coutts, Chairman of NHS Highland, said: “This is another step on the journey towards integrated services. Everything we have learned since December has confirmed in my mind that this is correct way to go to deliver the highest quality and most efficient services in the future. I am well aware there are still many hurdles to cross and issues to be resolved but I think we are still on the right road. It’s important that we are staying ahead of the curve."
Councillor Michael Foxley, Leader of The Highland Council, said: “As a GP in the Highlands for more than 30 years, I am acutely aware of the need to provide a more efficient service to the public with the funding available to us. We can reduce unnecessary emergency admissions, reduce delayed discharges, improve local team working with children services and place more emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”
Dr Margaret Somerville, Director of Public Health, NHS Highland, said: “This is an opportunity for us to make a real difference by improving services for people living in Highland. By developing integrated services there is potential to generate significant benefits for people using the services, as well as their carers and families. Such benefits include clearer, faster access to services, streamlined systems which are easier to understand, and improved communication between the various staff involved with a person’s care, all of which should work together to ensure improved health and a better experience of care for people living in Highland.”
A Staff Side spokesperson said: “The Unions and our members are fully committed to quality public services in the provision of best care and support for children, young people, older people, patients and carers. We recognise the case for integration however remain cautious and wish to ensure that the best models for service delivery are developed in order to harness the commitment, skills, expertise and morale of the staff who deliver the services. Clearly the protection of workers jobs, terms and conditions and pensions are integral to achieving quality public services and therefore union involvement remains crucial to the success of this process.”