Over the last few months Labour Councillors in Reading have been asking more and more questions in public and private about the ‘Accountable Care System’ (see this blog from Tony Jones in July) that is starting to emerge from the NHS in the West of Berkshire. Our area has, without consultation, been chosen along with 7 other areas to be one of these.
We are still not fully clear about what the ACS is, whether it is an organisation or ‘just a way of working’ and whether it will ever have legal standing, despite the questions I and others have asked both in public and in private.
So what is an ACS?
In theory it sounds like a great idea Accountable Care Systems will have more control over funding available matched by accountability for improving the health and wellbeing of the populations they cover. The local NHS will be given more freedom to make decisions over how the health system in their area operates.
However, my concern is that there has been a real lack of transparency about what this means for local people. In fact although the local NHS was previously claiming councils are signed up certainly speaking for Reading neither councillors nor staff have managed to get clarity about how the ACS even wants social care and pubic health to work with them. In Reading certainly noone has made a decision as to whether our council should get involved.
What we do know is it is yet another reorganisation of the NHS and a way of delivering the harsh cuts to the NHS we know are coming.
What we don’t know is whether it will lead to full privatisation in the West of Berkshire.
Of the seven other places that are in this early group the one based in Nottinghamshire has already privatised the delivery – awarding the contract to Capita and who has then passed it on to a subsidiary of a major private US health firm, Centene Corporation.
This is why it is important to be very clear. Reading Borough Council has NOT signed up to this. While I am the portfolio holder for Adult Social Care I would only agree to Reading’s social care work being involved if it is genuinely right for Reading.