Readers who were awake may have noticed a fleeting appearance by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on BBC London TV just before Christmas. He was announcing the London Health Devolution Agreement, supposedly signed by George Osborne himself along with all London CCGs and all London Borough Councils.
Ever vigilant on behalf of Brent patients, BPV asked Brent CCG and Brent Council about the process by which they had considered the case for signing up and to see any papers they had considered. We also wanted to know what the benefits might be and what exactly was being devolved.
Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of Brent Council, was quick to reply. She told us that Brent had not signed anything, but the agreement had been negotiated on behalf of all boroughs by an organisation called London Councils, see http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/our-key-themes/health-and-adult-services/health/health-and-care-devolution-lond
She added: “There is no extra money and there are no implications at all for Brent Council. We have not delegated to London Councils, any decision as to taking part in a devolution deal would be a matter for our council. And they cannot bind us through this agreement.” She agreed that there was a lot of spin involved.
Rob Larkman, CEO of Brent CCG, came back to us after Christmas, with a longer reply but not much more of substance. He said that on 21 October the CCG Executive had delegated power to sign the Agreement to Dr Marc Rowland, Chair of the London Clinical Commissioning Council, and that the CCG Governing Body would ratify it at their 13 January 2016 meeting – which they did. In a question session for the public before the Governing Body meeting when BPV pressed for clarification he volunteered that “devolution” was maybe a misnomer for the Agreement and that the CCG had signed up on a precautionary basis only. Brent is not so far affected.
The intention of the Agreement appears to be to encourage London NHS and local authorities jointly to devise improved health and social care arrangements tailored to London’s needs but strictly within the budget funds approved by the Government. What’s new pussycat?
The Treasury Press Notice of 15 December 2015 is a masterpiece of deliberate obscurity designed to re-assure all concerned without committing anyone to anything other than that NHS care is to still to be provided by the NHS, and a requirement to keep within the Government budgeted funds. It goes so far as to suggest that the changes are to be as significant as the discovery of penicillin!!
BPV is of the view that any alleged present from HM Treasury needs very careful scrutiny indeed.
Robin Sharp, BPV Interim Chair