GPs fear impact of NHS changes

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A HERALD investigation has revealed more than 70 per cent of GPs fear patient care will suffer when changes to the NHS are given the go-ahead.

GPs across East Sussex – who answered the Herald’s survey – slammed Government plans to put family doctors in charge of health care. The bill was being debated in the House of Commons this week.

Just 7.7 per cent of GPs are convinced that GP consortia will be up to the task.

The Health and Social Care Bill will give GPs the power to buy health services from ‘any willing provider’ allowing private companies to compete with local hospitals.

GP consortia will replace the East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust by 2013 and will be responsible for buying 80 per cent of health services.

But Dr Michael von Fraunhofer, of the Eastbourne consortium steering committee, said local consortia could be hamstrung with more than £30 million in debt from the outgoing PCT.

Dr von Fraunhofer, of the Lighthouse Medical Practice, in College Road, said, “This will cripple patient care and the blame will fall on GPs unfairly.”

He added, “No matter how good, dynamic or inventive we are we will be making massive cuts in choice and services just to stay afloat.”

Dr Francis Nicholls, of the Old School Surgery, in Church Street, Seaford, agreed, saying GPs could be made the ‘fall-guys’ once they are forced to cut services.

A spokesperson for the PCT said, “We are working with all local GPs to achieve our financial targets for this year, and to minimise the challenge in future years.”

Although 58 per cent of GPs consulted believe too much money is wasted on bureaucracy in the NHS, just three in the group of 26 GPs fully approved Government proposals to hand purchasing power to GPs.

Dr Matthew Jackson, Hailsham clinical lead to the Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford consortium, said that while the principle of devolving power to local GPs was justified, it is unlikely to work in practice.

Dr Jackson, of the Seaforth Farm Surgery, Hailsham, said, “If the government truly is going to reduce bureaucratic direction from the centre and properly resource innovative service redesign to fit local needs, then this is a good thing.

“Unfortunately the evidence is accumulating that the necessary changes will not be properly resourced and GPs will be held responsible for failing to manage impossible cuts in the local healthcare economy.”

Question & Answer

What is the Health

and Social Care Bill?

Government plans to cut management costs by putting GPs in charge of buying health services. The bill allows private companies to compete with local hospitals which the Coalition hopes will encourage best value for money.

How does the

system work now?

Managers working for the 151 Primary Care Trusts around England are in charge of commissioning local services, which means that they purchase care and treatment from hospitals and other providers.

How will it work?

Groups of GPs, known as GP consortia, will replace the PCTs by 2013 and will be given funds to spend on local services. They will be able to choose whether to buy treatments from NHS hospitals or private companies.