A second wave of health action zones is to be launched from spring next year, building on the 11 established by the Government last April.
The Department of Health has invited an additional 34 rural and urban areas to submit expressions of interest in becoming HAZs, as many as 15 of which will be invited to develop a full proposal after this initial stage.
HAZs are designed to bring together local partnerships of NHS organisations, local authorities, community groups and businesses to organise and deliver services better and more efficiently and help improve the health of the local populations for which they are responsible.
The Government has devoted £4m in the 1998/9 financial year to the first wave of HAZs and a further £30m has been earmarked for 1999/2000.
Health secretary Frank Dobson said that the Department of Health would be looking at areas of high health needs and deprivation in considering this latest round of applications.
Key areas which proposals will have to cover include: identifying and addressing the public health needs of the local area; speeding up the response of health services; increasing their efficiency and effectiveness, and developing meaningful partnerships to help improve the health of the local population.
Dobson said that HAZs were a crucial part of the Government’s programme to modernise the UK’s health services and tackle inequalities in the delivery of healthcare nationwide.
He explained: “Eleven zones have already started. But I want that to be just the beginning. That’s why I have invited 35 areas to apply. The Zones will make a real difference to people’s experience of health services, by helping to remove the bureaucratic obstacles and forging new partnerships to provide better services for all the local people in the region.
“This is the vehicle for implementing integrated care in a local health system.”
Areas which have been invited to apply to join the second wave of HAZs include Tees, Hull and East Riding, Merseyside, most of Lancashire and Birmingham in addition to most of the London Boroughs.