When someone talks about the National Health Service, what springs to your mind?
Is it the QA Hospital, or your GPs’ surgery or somewhere like Gosport War Memorial or Fareham Community Hospital?
We’ll all have our own picture. For me it’s the GPs’ surgery as they are our first port of call.
They will meet most of our health needs. If we need more complex or specialist care, then your GP is the gatekeeper to the rest of the NHS.
But in today’s health service GPs play another crucial role. They lead the Clinical Commissioning Groups.
There is one for each of Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, and South East Hampshire.
They are led by a GP. The belief is that because GPs are the closest to us and understand our health needs, they are best-placed to buy, or commission, our healthcare.
They set the health priorities of our area based on their assessments of our needs.
I think this is an important innovation and chimes with my belief that decisions are best taken locally wherever possible.
Of course, there is a tension here. Decisions that GPs make in their surgeries or the care we receive in the community have an impact elsewhere in the system.
A recent report by Diabetes UK highlighted that people in Fareham and Gosport with diabetes were more likely to have their foot amputated compared to England as a whole. Better care for diabetics would again reduce the pressure on the QA.
Each part of the system needs to work with the rest. Health is a vital public service. And because of the tough decisions we have taken to safeguard the economy, we have been able to increase health spending.
This does not mean though that our GPs, community services or hospitals can sit back.
They must work together to reform health care to meet the growing and changing demands of local people.