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Paper 12  - 26 January 2001


26 January 2001


Report-back by Councillor Maureen Robinson (New Forest District Council)

Care Direct.

We have been briefed on the development of ‘Care Direct’, a new service based on the ‘NHS Direct’ model, but which will also enable clients to be routed to local help desks based in Local Authorities, especially if they are unable to use the telephone.

The aim of the service is to help improve access to, and information about, services for older people and disabled people who have no prospect of work. It is envisaged that via one telephone number, users and carers will be able to find out

* Where to go for information and advice.

* Get the information they need, when they need it.

* Get the support they need, when they need it – delivered in an integrated way, to consistent standards.

* Make informed decisions about their need for care.

The Department of Health (DoH) which is developing the project, is understood to be planning to implement the service in 2001/02 by starting about 6 pilot help-desks in the GOSW region with a view to extending this to the whole of the SW and adding an ‘information beacon’ local authority in each of the other regions the following year.

A small officer level steering group exists to advise on the arrangements for setting up the project and has representation from both the voluntary and the statutory sectors.

Winter pressures.

We have debated the effectiveness of the round of Ministerial meetings that were held during the autumn in terms of their efficacy in addressing the problems of Local Authorities in assisting the NHS avert a winter crisis. Evidence was offered from several Social Services Authorities that significant areas of concern in funding continue to exist. Directors of Social Services are being contacted to collect up to date information on the issues arising within local health economies. This will be compared with the resources issues being identified by the D.o.H.

Scrutiny of the NHS.

The LGA has identified several questions that need to be addressed if this new responsibility is to succeed.

* In two tier authorities, at what level will the scrutiny function operate?

* How will the scrutiny function be carried out in areas where the NHS organisation spans more than one local authority?

* How will local authority scrutiny fit into the NHS public accountability and performance management framework set out in the NHS plan?

* What resources will be available to local authorities to support this new responsibility?

* For mental health services, what would be the relationship between the Mental Health Act commissioners and local authority scrutiny?

So far the LGA’s preparations have included,

* Joint work with the NHS confederation, including a joint LGA/NHS confederation seminar on the subject.(‘Chatham House ‘rules).

* The establishment of official level meetings with relevant civil servants on the D.o.H.

The LGA intends lobbying to ensure that the wording of the Health Bill deals as generally as possible with the transfer of the scrutiny function to local government and that the wording of the Bill should fit with the community leadership role, recognising the full breadth of that role. It should also include the capacity to scrutinise the full purchasing, providing and service configuration of the NHS. It is considered that the more detailed issues are dealt with by regulation after the main Bill has been dealt with to allow sufficient time for proper consultation and advice.

It is important to remember that during the development of this new function, the new arrangements are aimed at the users of NHS services and the legislation should therefore not be over prescriptive.


Traditionally a joint annual conference has been organised to cater for the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) and the Social Affairs and Health Executive. However, in acknowledgement of the emerging role of non social services issues in the Executive’s agenda a new format is being planned for the 2001 conference.

New Forest District Council

Date: 15 December 2000
Annex: 0
Contact: Councillor Maureen Robinson 023 8028 5435

Last update: 22/01/2001
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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