A new health contract providing services for young people is set to save Sunderland City Council half a million pounds, a meeting has heard.
Last year, public health services for people aged 0-19 were transferred to Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) under a five-year contract.
This covers services such as school nursing, youth support and family nurses for first time parents in Sunderland.
As part of the switch, medical health records and 136 staff moved over from previous provider, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.
Following a question by Coun Barbara McClennan at the council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee this week, it was revealed the move will create huge savings for the council.
Public health specialist Lorraine Hughes stressed that the changes “were not about making staff redundant”.
“We have built in savings in the contract over the five years of half a million pounds but we have done it in a way that is managed,” she told councillors at Sunderland Civic Centre.
“Being based in Sunderland (staff) are all set up for agile working so they don’t have to come back to the office two or three times a day to transfer data records to electronic systems, they can be out there doing the frontline work.
“A lot of the efficiencies will come through that type of working rather than staff reduction.
“Rather that taking (savings) up front we have allowed the provider to do that in a managed way.”
She added: “They’re a good provider to work with and what we’re starting to see is some of the staff who were more resistant have started to feed back and see the benefits of this way of working.”
The public health boss also dispelled rumours that “all school nurses had left” with the new service only looking to fill a small number of vacancies.
Delays around transferring records were also being countered with extra safeguarding checks and reviews of individual cases, the meeting heard.
HDFT has a similar contract in County Durham and was selected as Sunderland’s provider, despite bids from other organisations.
The new contract, which came into force in July 2018, will be reviewed regularly and could be extended after five years.
However, Sunderland City Council still has the power to vary parts of contract or scale it back in future subject to the impact of public health funding.
Reports on the performance of the public health services expected to return to the committee in future.
The contract covers the following services for people aged 0-19 in Sunderland:
* Health visiting checks;
* Family Nurse Partnership – a programme working with first time parents aged 19 and under;
* School nursing: Audiology screening and the National Child Measurement Programme;
* Universal parenting support;
* Vulnerable young person’s nursing support – linked with the Youth Offending Service and Young People’s Substance Misuse Service;
* Enhanced support to vulnerable school aged children;
* Oral health promotion.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service