Revised NHS Board areas in the Argyll area will follow existing Council boundaries – because that is best for planning and delivering responsive local services, Health Minister Andy Kerr announced today.
When NHS Argyll and Clyde is dissolved on 31 March 2006, NHS Highland's boundary will be changed to include the area of Argyll and Bute Council. The remainder of the area of the dissolved Board will join NHS Greater Glasgow.
The decision comes after a three-month consultation looking at different options for boundary changes.
The Minister made it clear that patients in Argyll and Clyde will continue to use local healthcare services and attend the nearest appropriate hospital when necessary, as they do at present. Changing the boundaries makes no change to the services that people currently access.
Mr Kerr said:
"What matters most to me is making sure patients get the best services available. This is the time for a clean slate and a fresh start, to put local planning and delivery on a stable footing and to make sure we have sustainable, high quality services for the future.
"Making boundaries match those of local authorities means much smoother and more integrated planning of services in the future. So much of service delivery depends on councils and health boards working hand in hand. It therefore makes sense to match boundaries.
"There are arguments in favour of all of the options, but it is our responsibility to make the best health decisions. I am taking steps to ensure that the Boards who will deliver services in future will take full account of the needs and wishes of the relevant communities. And of course nothing we are announcing today changes the fact that patients will continue to use hospital services where they always have done.
"The two successor Boards have the task of ensuring provision of modern, responsive and sustainable services for all the residents of their areas.
"I welcome NHS Highland and NHS Greater Glasgow's commitment to establish a locality planning group for the Helensburgh and Lochside area. This will give residents a structured opportunity to make an input to the planning of hospital and other services in Greater Glasgow.
"Argyll and Bute Community Health Partnership will be given maximum scope to take decisions locally, and to receive all the support necessary from the Boards.
"I also want to take this opportunity to thank NHS staff in Argyll and Clyde for all their efforts to maintain high quality services for their patients and the public throughout a difficult period. They deserve the gratitude and support of us all."
The Minister went on to outline the financial challenges which still lie ahead. He said:
"Our decision to write off Argyll and Clyde's accumulated deficit, up to £80 million, means that although the new boards still have tough decisions to make, they will be starting from a new base.
"However, I am well aware that the challenge will still remain for the successor Boards to restore financial balance in the area as quickly as possible."
Professor Sir John Arbuthnott, Chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow said:
"NHS Greater Glasgow fully supports the Minister's decision.
"My senior team has been working for some months with their counterparts in NHS Argyll and Clyde and NHS Highland to ensure the smoothest possible transition to the new arrangements at the beginning of April, 2006.
"The Minister's decision extends our responsibilities to include both parts of East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils which previously were within NHS Argyll and Clyde.
"We have already been working with these two authorities in establishing Community Health Partnerships which match the local authorities' boundaries.
"In addition, we look forward to working with the Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Councils in the development of Community Health Partnerships within those areas: we are keen to ensure that these Community Health Partnerships are able to be established by 1st April, 2006.
"I also want to reiterate the assurances given at recent public meetings that the hospitals that patients use will continue to be determined by patient and General Practitioner preferences."
Chairman of NHS Highland, Garry Coutts, also welcomed the decision. He said:
"The Minister has obviously listened to the views of local people and has made a good decision.
"We will be working with local staff and the local authority to establish a Community Health Partnership for the area, to ensure that the local services are managed locally. There are a lot of similarities between areas of Argyll and Bute and areas of the Highlands. We can learn from each other in the development of rural health care, to the benefit of everyone."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. NHS Argyll and Clyde will be dissolved on 31 March 2006.
2. Option one from the consultation proposed incorporating the Argyll and Bute council area within NHS Highland, and the rest of the Argyll and Clyde area within NHS Greater Glasgow.
3. Up to £80 million is being set aside to cover the accumulated deficit of Argyll and Clyde.
4. Possible Name Change:
There is some support for amending the names of the successor Boards when NHS Argyll and Clyde is dissolved.
The Minister has agreed that Glasgow and Highland can consult further on this within their enlarged areas and to consider whether there is a case for change. However, he has also made clear that costs associated with any name change should be minimised.
If proposals for change of name are brought forward, the Minister would expect these to be implemented over time as and when signs and vehicles need to be replaced.
Contact: Alison Gilfillan 0131 244 3177
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