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Combined health and social care organisation poses 'financial risk' to local authority

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A pioneering NHS service that promised to save millions of pounds by creating and testing the first combined health and social care trust has been hit by financial strife, barely a year after its launch.

The Torbay and South Devon ICO (Integrated Care Organisation) came into being in October 2015, with a mission to pool health and social care budgets – and run the services from under one roof.

But Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust has this month told the two councils involved in the ICO that it is withdrawing from a ‘risk-sharing’ agreement, which splits liabilities for unexpected costs.

Torbay Council papers indicate that the ICO has overspent by £12m in its first year, sparking fears that the organisation presents a ‘substantial financial risk’ to the local authority.

In light of the financial strife facing the ICO, councillors have called for ‘a different dialogue’ with the Government.

‘The integration of health and social care in Torbay has long been held up as the right model of care,’ they state.

‘The Government needs to help to ensure the continued success of this model without local tax payers being asked to meet the increasing costs of the NHS.’

Under the current risk-sharing deal, Torbay must pour an extra £1.2m into the ICO to keep it up and running, leaving the NHS to pick up the rest of the tab.

Concerns about the future of the ICO have been flagged with NHS officials by Conservative MP for Totnes and Commons health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston.

In response, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told the Commons public accounts committee last week that he would take a ‘very careful look’ at the ICO.

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Mairead McAlinden said: ‘Like other NHS trusts across England, here in Torbay and South Devon we are facing considerable challenges.

‘We have very stretching efficiency targets this year and at the end of October our forecasts tell us that we have a gap in achieving these.

'We must take all possible action to reduce our financial gap while protecting frontline services.’

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