Call for new NHS scrutiny panel to represent all parts of Lancashire equally

A new super committee examining major healthcare decisions across Lancashire must fairly represent all corners of the county, a group of councillors has said.

The joint Lancashire and South Cumbria health scrutiny committee is being established to monitor any service changes proposed by the region’s integrated care system (ICS), a partnership of NHS and local government organisations designed to overhaul health and social care.

Decisions which affect the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria will be assessed by councillors

Decisions which affect the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria will be assessed by councillors

It has been proposed that membership of the new body should be made up of three representatives from each of the so-called ‘top-tier’ authorities in the area – Lancashire County Council, Cumbria County Council and the standalone councils covering Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen.

But a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s own health scrutiny committee heard that the suggested set-up would leave residents in the county council area underrepresented – because the authority covers more of the geographical area than the other three councils on the new panel, but would have just a third of its members.

“The key issue is getting adequate representation for Lancashire, [the area with] the majority of people who would be affected by these decisions,” said Preston city councillor David Borrow. His call for three members from Lancashire’s district councils to be added to the new body – and be given voting rights – was unanimously supported.

The proposal would have to be agreed by the other three councils involved.

The new joint committee will scrutinise decisions which directly affect all areas of the ICS. It has the power to refer proposals for “substantial service changes or any NHS proposal which [it] feels has been the subject of inadequate consultation” to the Health Secretary.

Some members of the county council’s own committee also expressed concern that the proposed arrangements discriminated against the smaller political parties by stipulating that the representatives from each of the three authorities should comprise two members of the ruling group and one from the main opposition.

Committee member David Whipp said that there must be not be “a duopoly of representation”.

“This is supposedly going to be a non-party political body, so surely it would be sensible to have a broad political approach, rather than a very narrow one,” he added.

A suggestion by fellow committee member Charlie Edwards to remove the requirement for opposition representatives to be from the second-largest group on each authority was supported by a majority.

Progress on the establishment of the new body is unlikely to come until well into the new year, when the other three councils respond to the recommendations from Lancashire County Council.