ON October 16, Wirral Council and NHS Wirral agreed to establish an integrated commissioning hub.

Wirral's Clinical Commissioning Group will be using it to procure a range of NHS services from April 2019.

This rather mundane sounding agreement has huge implications for health services in Wirral.

The background papers confirmed that this agreement "will facilitate the introduction of a wider accountable care organisation across the Wirral."

Currently, in most NHS contracts a needs-based payment is made for each treatment provided to individual patients.

But the new contract would pay the provider a fixed lump sum at the start of each year, to cover the costs of a range of treatments for the whole population.

This switch from a needs-based payment to a fixed contract is crucial.

It means the introduction of rationing for health services.

Fixed capital budgets will be allocated which are no longer based on clinical need and must not be overspent.

Despite warnings from myself and others, Labour councillors have chosen to proceed with this agreement.

It is clear that the Conservative Government is working to privatise by stealth our treasured NHS.

It is deeply worrying that Labour councillors in Wirral have helped to facilitate this.

Pat Cleary, Green Party councillor for Birkenhead and Tranmere