‘We seem to be the poor relative’: Shake-up could see Teesside health decisions taken in Newcastle

Teesside could become the “poor relative” to Newcastle under plans to shake up the health service in the region, it has been warned.

Councillors have expressed concerns that plans for a Teesside health body to become part of a wider organisation that includes the rest of the North East and North Cumbria will dampen the area’s influence.

The NHS Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will be incorporated into an integrated care system (ICS) which will cover a much larger geographical area in a restructure of health bodies in the region.

The aim of this is to bring together local authorities with NHS organisations to ensure primary and specialist care, social care services, and physical and mental health services are integrated.

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Speaking at the Adult Social Care and Services Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday, Middlesbrough Conservative councillor David Coupe expressed concerns that this could lead to Newcastle dominating the healthcare agenda.

He added: “We seem to be the poor relative to Newcastle. My concerns would be, depending on who the chair is and where it’s going to be based, a lot of resource could go outside this area and we need a lot of resources in this area.

“It would be my worry, personally, that it would become Newcastle-centrist.”

Middlesbrough Councillor David Coupe
Councillor David Coupe

Before adding: “It’s the thing that goes back many years with this area and we really need control of our own health and our own destiny.

“I’m not against the savings or the idea of having an area that controls it like the North East, but is it a fair North East and is it an open playing field?”

The ICS will be responsible for the care of about three million people across the North East and North Cumbria.

There will be four Integrated Care Partnerships (ICP) that will feed into the ICS – one of those, the South ICP, will work across Hartlepool, Stockton, Darlington, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland.

The South ICP will include the current Tees Valley CCG, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (Darlington site), North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, South Tees NHS Foundation Trust, the five local authorities, Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, and the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Director of Adult Social Services at Middlesbrough Council, Erik Scollay, was clear that the local authorities across Teesside would be working together to prevent a united front to the ICS.

In his initial comments, he said: “We often hear about the LA7 in the north of the North East patch and maybe, I am just putting it out there, maybe over the years they have been better at getting their collective act together than we have.

“I think often the Tees authorities, the five authorities down here, seem to me to be cast as the junior partners in the North East arrangement.

“And I think there is lots we do on Teesside that others can learn from and has done very well so I think we need, as a group of authorities, to have, and we are not going to agree on everything because the situations differ across Teesside, but we need to have a collective position and a collective voice in our negotiations with the ICS.”

In response to Councillor Coupe’s concerns, he added: “I absolutely understand the anxieties that you have articulated.

“We do recognise the perhaps natural tendency in the North East, that the focus seems to get directed towards the bigger city in the north, towards Newcastle.”

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Councillor Coupe was also worried that the change to the health structures could mean more money would go towards places further north in the region.

However, Mr Scollay responded: “In terms of the money, the integrated care system is about how we use the money that’s in the NHS system more effectively, it’s not a new block of money that we bid for – there will be money associated with the transformation, but fundamentally it’s about how the NHS reorganises more efficiently.

“There is a responsibility on us as a group of authorities to make sure that we state our case and from my perspective so far we are doing that.”

He added that the Tees Valley authorities have already sent letters to Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chair for the Integrated Care System for the North East and North Cumbria.

Labour councillor Jeanette Ann Walker also raised concerns about Teesside not being as represented as it should be.

She added: “I would hate to see us playing catch up with them all the time. Trying to direct everything we want after they have already made those decisions.

“I hope that they will give us plenty of time to make sure we are in the right position to direct, as you quite rightly said, those funds into areas that we know we need but they might not necessarily know we need.”

Clinical Commissioning Groups were created following the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, before coming into force in 2013.

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