Concern over GPs running NHS healthcare budgets

SUFFOLK: A patient representative group has today expressed concern about the Government’s new healthcare changes which would see GPs in charge of managing budgets.

Under the proposals announced in the Government’s White Paper, NHS Suffolk, the county’s primary care trust, and the region’s strategic health authority, NHS East of England, will be abolished by 2013.

In their place GPs will join forces to form consortia and will be given the task of controlling about �70billion of taxpayers’ money, which is currently handled by the PCT and SHA.

There has been mixed reaction to the plans, with some claiming that it is a step in the right direction to get away from large numbers of administrative staff, but others admit they are baffled about the way it will work.

This also comes as Suffolk’s former out-of-hours GP provider, Take Care Now, which evolved from a GP consortia, was slammed in a Care Quality Commission report for making a series of failings.

Marion Fairman-Smith, chairman of the Suffolk LINk (Local Involvement Network), an independent network made up of individuals and community groups who work together to improve local health and social care services, has said there are initial concerns about the plans.

She said: “The LINk’s feeling is it will very much depend on the GPs and the sort of consortia they will get themselves into.

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“If you look back to fundholding [a voluntary scheme set up in 1990 where GPs could hold onto their own funds] it was a success for some, but not others. You ended up with some GPs very keen and interested in moving ahead with it and other GPs not with the same skills or interested in managing a commissioning role.

“We are very concerned that this time, there is no choice. Some GPs will have the skills for this and some won’t. It all seems a bit rushed and there is no meat on the bones yet.

“I do not know if we will end up with ten mini-PCTs. Will the doctors be trained up for this or will there be a two-tier system? With all these anomalies, I don’t know what will happen.”

Health campaigner Peter Mellor added: “The move is extremely drastic and I hope it does not mean the private sector will come and take off 25 per cent of the NHS’s budget.

“A lot of additional managers will be needed in the GP consortia, and that will presumably be the present employees at the PCT.”

n What do you think of the changes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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