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Health bodies set to merge

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NHS Berkshire West Primary Care Trust will merge with the Berkshire East Primary Care Trust

TWO Berkshire health bodies are set to merge ahead of their abolition in 2013.

NHS Berkshire West Primary Care Trust (PCT) is to come together with Berkshire East Primary Care Trust following a recent Department of Health announcement requiring PCTs in the south to cluster together.

PCTs will cease to exist from April 2013 when it is planned that General Practitioners will take over the commissioning of health services, as it is unlikely PCTs will be able to continue as they are, is is hoped the consolidation will smooth the transition.

In the south central region there will be three clusters: Berkshire West and Berkshire East; Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth; and Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Each cluster will have a single executive team in place as soon as possible, and decisions about the structure of the remainder of the PCT clusters will follow.

Both health bodies employ over 3,000 staff between them. It is not known at this stage if any redundancies will follow.

Chief Executive of South Central Strategic Health Authority, Andrea Young, said: “The clustering arrangements do not mean that local relationships will be any less important than they are now. In fact, the clusters will ensure there is strong support for GP consortia at a local level, and close working relationships with local authorities as they take on responsibility for public health and begin to establish Health and Well Being Boards as a key part of the transition.”

The Department of Health is due to publish HR guidance on the processes associated with the formation of clusters in January and, in order that all affected staff are treated transparently, consistently and fairly, PCTs in South Central have agreed to wait for this guidance before pressing ahead with implementation of the new arrangements.

In July last year, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced that all 152 primary care trusts across the country, including NHS Berkshire West, are to be abolished, along with 10 strategic health authorities, in an attempt to slash management costs.

Groups of general practitioners will instead manage the so-called “commissioning” of treatment, which carries an annual budget of £80 billion.

The public health responsibilities of PCTs will be handed to councils.

NHS Berkshire West was formed in October 2006 as a result of the merging of Reading, Wokingham, and Newbury and Community PCTs.

It was rebranded as NHS Berkshire West in 2008.

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