'Orwellian' restructure of Cheshire NHS delivery body triggers council anger

By Gwyn Griffiths

27th Aug 2021 | Local News

Cheshire CCG has local offices at the former Barony Hospital.
Cheshire CCG has local offices at the former Barony Hospital.

COUNCILLORS are enraged at a potential merger of NHS services across Cheshire and Merseyside.

An NHS England consultation has been completed into the planned introduction of integrated care systems (ICS), which would replace clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in some cases.

In Cheshire, it would mean the county's NHS Cheshire CCG could be scrapped by 2022, despite only being created in April 2020, to make way for a Cheshire-Merseyside ICS.

At yesterday's (Thursday) meeting of Cheshire East Council's health scrutiny committee, councillors outlined their concerns over the move to regional NHS officials.

Cllr Stewart Gardiner said: "When I read these reports I find myself almost re-reading Orwell's books. I read it in stages because it was causing my blood to boil.

"There appears to be a top down approach to how health is delivered and managed. Surely the whole process we have been working with over the last ten years has been [based on the idea] that the needs of local communities are best served by those on the ground.

"I fear that [this] will mean the Liverpool City Region will get all the money and make all the decisions. The decisions we determine at a local level will be those that could be problems that are palmed off on us."

Fellow Conservative member Patrick Redstone added: "As you have seen there is cross party support against this proposal - we are suspicious.

"What happens when large organisations take over from smaller ones is that people at a ground level, like our residents, are not heard and this is really my fundamental fear."

Another sceptic included Cllr Janet Clowes. She said the requirement of only having two elected council members on the ICS' board from Cheshire East was not enough, given the fact that the council "spends between 55 and 70 per cent of its overall" budget on social care.

Alan Yates, representing the Cheshire and Merseyside healthcare partnership, stressed to councillors: "I am not going to sit in this meeting and neglect Cheshire. One of the things we are talking about is moving our headquarters out of Liverpool after Covid.

"We have been made to feel more welcome by Cheshire than the Liverpool City Region and that makes a very substantial difference in working together in partnership."

Clare Watson, Accountable Officer for the NHS Cheshire CCG added that in the proposed merger, Cheshire Eat Council "needed to make its voice heard".

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