SEAFORD LETTER: CCG consults with patients

Paul Bundy wrote last week criticising the local health services. In my opinion I have no right to criticise them unless I am prepared as a patient to try to understand their workings and to participate in their decision-making processes as far as possible. I have therefore taken part in consultation meetings and training days, and have attended meetings of the local CCG committee meetings as an observer.

Unlike the body which preceded it, the local CCG shows a real interest in consulting with patients and taking their views into account when making its decisions. The local Primary Care Trusts and other providers offer services and the CCG can only buy what they provide; at present it is not consulted on what they choose to offer. It was therefore not responsible for the decisions to relocate maternity and other services.

The PCT only has the funds provided by the government, and has to use them in the most effective ways. Opinions differ about the choice between localised services and specialised centres. On the one hand there are risks created by longer travelling times, and on the other the advantages of staff with greater expertise and better equipment available for 24 hours, seven days a week, which smaller facilities cannot provide. It is comparison between the number of deaths and significant incidents in the two options which provide the objective test of their performance, and the figures at present suggest that the new arrangements are safer.

As an observer of the CCG I have seen a highly efficient team working enthusiastically with the interests of patients at heart. I have also seen GPs working excessively long hours to serve their patients and investing money in the support services which help them to make the best use of their time. It is easy to criticise them when they are unable to meet the needs of all patients promptly, but with a better understanding of what these services have to cope with it is clear that this is impossible within their present budgets.

If we want better health services we need to invest more money in the areas which benefit patients, and I believe that many people would be prepared to pay higher taxes if they were sure that they would be spent directly on the care of patients.

David Hitchin

Wilkinson Way, Seaford