Patients will see benefit of NHS reform, say GPs

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FAMILY doctors who are set to take control of healthcare budgets say patients will benefit from NHS reforms.

Ministers yesterday debated the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Commons, which outlines the plans for the NHS including GPs taking over commissioning from the primary care trusts (PCTs) when they are scrapped in 2013.

When news of this broke last year many doctors were concerned about what this would mean.

But now GPs say they believe by getting more involved in the care we receive and by cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy, patients will benefit.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex Local Medical Committees, and who represents GPs in south Hampshire, said: ‘Locally, the feeling about the plans is either neutral or positive. I’ve not heard any GPs being really anti-this. This is the right way forward and GPs should be in control.

‘We support the idea of cutting out bureaucracy in the NHS and much greater clinical leadership in commissioning services with GPs and consultants working closer together.’

Other health officials are also backing plans for the GPs to take control.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, NHS Portsmouth’s director of public health and primary care said: ‘I definitely think this is the right direction to be going in. GPs are closer to the patients and understand their needs more.’

GPs have concerns about parts of the reforms such as greater competition, with private providers being able to bid to provide health services. There are worries that while competition can drive up quality, this may not be the case in healthcare.

GPs are also worried they may be blamed for any cuts to services in the future.

Dr Watson said: ‘We’re coming into this at the worst possible time. If we were coming in 10 years ago when we were getting 10 per cent growth in the NHS it would have been great. But we’re coming in at a stage where we’ve got to deal with rising demands and falling resources.’

The health and social bill is yet to be passed in parliament but GPs are getting ready for the changes.

When the PCTs go, groups of GPs – called GP consortia – will control the purse strings. Already consortia have been set up and have started looking at their new role in Portsmouth and Hampshire.