Health authorities need more managers

9 Sep 99
The NHS Confederation called this week for a 'modest' increase in the number of health service managers to help health authorities fulfil their new strategic role.

10 September 1999

The authorities' new responsibilities were outlined by the Department of Health last week. The 99 English health authorities will gradually lose many purchasing duties over the next few years as commissioning is transferred to GP-led primary care groups and primary care trusts.

Health authorities will plan services, tackle pockets of ill health and assess the performance of the new commissioning groups. Crucially, they will lead discussions on the annual health improvement programmes, which form the basis for commissioning decisions each year.

Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said authorities were enthusiastic about the new agenda. But he added: 'It is clear there will now be a need for considerable investment in training and development by the NHS Executive.'

Authorities have been hit hard by management cuts and the loss of staff who have joined PCGs, he said. They are still responsible for purchasing specialist services, such as cancer care. In some areas, PCGs have opted to act as advisory bodies, leaving commissioning to authorities.

'The NHS Executive needs to satisfy itself that health authorities are adequately resourced to succeed,' Thornton added. 'The confederation will be working with the government to identify how management cost controls might be relaxed or where modest reinvestment in management may be needed, or otherwise for an acknowledgement that some difficult choices will remain.'

Health minister John Denham confirmed health authorities must facilitate the development of PCGs and PCTs. 'A critically important role will be to empower primary care groups and trusts to drive the improvements in care which doctors and nurses know their populations need.'


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