Sunderland Council gets more powers to tackle smoking and obesity

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A HEALTH service shake-up that will give more responsibility to Sunderland City Council has moved a step closer.

The council will soon help determine how services are commissioned, while also working on tackling problems such as obesity and smoking under a series of Government reforms.

After the passing of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s controversial Health and Social Care Act earlier this year, a Health and Wellbeing Board will be created at all top-tier councils in England.

Changes also mean that new Clinical Commissioning Groups are being set up to decide what NHS budgets will be spent on.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet has agreed that a committee of councillors, GPs, directors of social services and other health bosses will be involved in the new board.

It will be chaired by council leader Paul Watson and will work with the NHS organisations in the city before the handover in April 2013.

Coun Watson said the transferring of responsibility was an important one for patients on Wearside.

He said: “Setting up the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board is a key milestone.

“The NHS will become more accountable to local people through the Health and Wellbeing Board and their elected representatives will oversee how health services are organised.

“The board, as a committee of the council, will support GPs in taking responsibility for health budgets and oversee the final stages of public health responsibilities transferring to the council as primary care trusts are abolished.” Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, Coun Mel Speding, who is cabinet secretary, and Coun Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children’s services, will join Coun Watson as committee members, alongside GPs and directors.

Coun Kelly said: “This is a major change and shift in how the health system works for the people of Sunderland.

“It is also a shift towards greater local democratic responsibility and accountability for NHS services and health services in the city.”

The public will be able to attend the Health and Wellbeing Board’s meetings, which will take advice from partners across Sunderland through two advisory groups representing interested partners in the health and social care sector.

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