I have long been a champion of the incredible work that Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group, effectively administered jointly by Tameside Council, have achieved over the last few years. From the Council, Councillor Brenda Warrington, and Cabinet Lead, Councillor Eleanor Wills and their officers have pushed for transformative NHS and care integration, so that care is given within hospitals and the local community. This locally administered model really works, and has made Tameside and Glossop one of the top ten CCG’s in terms of patient output.

That is why I’m growing increasingly concerned with the Government’s NHS reforms and how they will affect Tameside. Under new Government plans, all ten CCG’s in Greater Manchester will become part of one large Integrated Care System (ICG), in charge of integrated care across the whole of Greater Manchester. I think this could be a problem for Tameside and am keen not to have the exceptional work of Tameside Council and local health leaders undone by a decision made on a national level. Tameside and Glossop CCG are uniquely placed to understand the needs of the local community and mustn’t be swallowed up by a much larger superstructure.

I’m not the only one concerned about what these reforms will mean for local healthcare. A few weeks ago, Professor Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, gave evidence to MPs in which he said that he was concerned that experienced clinical leaders face ‘a real risk that they’ll get lost’ in integrated care reform. I’m all for a renewed focus on integrated care, and would happily work with the Government on it, but not at the expense of local CCGs that are already doing a fantastic job.

I fully appreciate that reforming the NHS is a difficult task, but we mustn’t lose sight of the facts in this wide-ranging and often technical debate. CCGs like Tameside and Glossop know how to administer care locally, they have a very good understanding of which areas in the local community need attention, and what should be prioritised moving forward. If the Government is serious about reforming the NHS, and properly integrating care, it should be building far better relationships on a local level, rather than making the system more centralised.

ICGs are due to become statutory in 2022, and the Government is currently conducting a series of pilots (including in Greater Manchester). I really hope this pilot programme makes the Government revaluate the nature of its planned reforms, and helps it appreciate the value of community voices in integrated care.

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