View from the chamber: NHS must continue to listen and engage with local voices in proposed merger of CCGs

Cllr Ketan Sheth wants the voices of Brent to be heard in the proposed CCG merger.

Cllr Ketan Sheth wants the voices of Brent to be heard in the proposed CCG merger. - Credit: Archant

Readers may be aware that the way in which the local NHS is run is likely to see big changes.

Part of the NHS Long Term Plan is for local NHS bodies to work in partnership with local councils as part of an “integrated care system”.

In NW London, this will mean a huge partnership across eight boroughs, including Brent. It may also mean a merger of the eight clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across these areas into a single CCG for NW London.

NHS leaders assure us this is not a change to services, but to how their staff are organised. They say any changes that are proposed under the new working arrangements will be subject to the same consultation and scrutiny.

We need to hold them to this promise. The biggest concern for me, as a Brent councillor, is that the voice of Brent residents is not lost in a new system covering a huge geographical area. At a scrutiny committee, we had the chance to question the single CCG merger. There were certainly encouraging words about their future approach to involving local people in shaping health services. They have put in place a new programme, rather grandly called EPIC (engage, participate, involve, collaborate), which they say is a response to the challenge of maintaining the voices of local residents.

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The programme is ambitious and no-one could argue with its stated objectives. But as ever, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The NHS is facing big challenges, not least in the wake of Covid-19. Getting public engagement right is going to be more important than ever.

• Cllr Ketan Sheth represents Tokynton ward and is chairman of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

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