Leighton Hospital, Crewe - photo Mid Cheshire NHS Trust (1)

NHS and care reforms have sparked fears Cheshire East residents could lose out to those living in large towns and cities, writes Belinda Ryan.

The Government says the Integrated Care Systems (ICS) being introduced across England will help the NHS and local councils work together to respond to health and care challenges.

But the ICS proposed to cover Cheshire East also covers the rest of Cheshire and Merseyside – and includes nine local authority areas.

Cllr Laura Jeuda (Lab) said: “I would ask why we’re having another reorganisation of the NHS, at a time when waiting lists for treatment has never been higher.

“And why were the changes announced when the country was still reeling from the impact of the pandemic and staff vacancies were at a record high?

“With each reorganisation of the National Health Service, and there have been many, the aim to improve the coordination between health authorities and local authorities has failed.

“The geographical area is huge and covers different socio-economic areas, some highly disadvantaged,” she said.

“Will they take a much larger percentage of the budget, given the level of needs, compared to more affluent areas?”

Knutsford councillor Stewart Gardiner agreed.

“I have, on a number of occasions, raised my concern about the whole reorganisation and my fear that we in the rural hinterlands will lose out to the city centres,” he said.

Congleton councillor Denis Murphy added: “The first thing that concerned me was the size of the area involved – nine local authorities.

“And my question then, my question now, is will we be getting our fair share of the health care and social care that is being provided under this funding system?

“I think we do need to keep a very careful eye on the results of the change.”

Macclesfield Nick Mannion (Lab) said a cynic would say the new system will result in “a new raft of acronyms and well-salaried executive positions and roles for those at the top of the pyramid”.

“I’m not particularly bothered what it’s called, what the acronyms are, who sits around the table, what I want is actual real integration of primary and secondary healthcare sectors, adequate staffing to deliver services.

“So whilst I support these recommendations, there is with a heavy layer of cynicism.”

Council leader Sam Corcoran said he understood people had misgivings but to do the best for Cheshire East residents the council had to “work with colleagues in local authorities and the NHS across Cheshire and Merseyside to promote good health and tackle the wider determinants of health”.

Crewe councillor Jill Rhodes, chair of the adults and health committee, said: “We need to protect council services and council budget and ensure that they don’t get swallowed up into a bigger budget.”

Councillors were deciding on the legal structure for the new system and approved the recommendations, which included setting up a committee with NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group to oversee and manage the Better Care Fund Agreement.

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