Part of Fenland to trial new way of delivering care to NHS patients

PUBLISHED: 14:26 30 September 2010

Dr Simon Brown and Richard Withers

Dr Simon Brown and Richard Withers

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PATIENTS in part of Fenland are to take part in Government trial that could speed up hospital and other medical treatment.

PATIENTS in part of Fenland are to take part in Government trial that could speed up hospital and other medical treatment.

Until now, if a family doctor wanted to refer a patient to a consultant or for specialist treatment, the referral was made through NHS Cambridgeshire, the primary care trust, which actually bought the service.

But primary care trusts are to be abolished in 2013, and the NHS is looking for more efficient ways to replace their activities.

In two pilots – one in the Yaxley and Whittlesey area (Borderline Commissioning Consortium) and other in Hunts– the GPs involved are buying health care services directly on behalf of their patients.

Between them, the practices have a budget of nearly £100million, and look after 80,000 patients.

Borderline is led by Dr Richard Withers, from the Yaxley group practice.

“It is exciting to be part of such an innovative pilot scheme that is also now national policy,” he said.

“We firmly believe that clinicians are best placed to commission health services for their patients. We will work hard with all our partners to ensure the best outcome for out patients - and we relish the prospect of these new challenges.”

NHS Cambridgeshire had pledged to deliver GP Commissioning Consortia as part of the five year strategic plan launched for the county in 2009.

“Historically, health services, such as community and hospital services have been commissioned via primary care trusts (PCTs). This way of arranging services meant that GPs on the front line, who were best placed to advise on their patients needs, were removed from the process,” said a Cambs NHS spokesman.

“The introduction of GP Commissioning Consortia, which are groups of GP practices who have joined together, means that the needs of patients will be better met by using the expertise of GPs who know their patients best.”

This work aligns with the proposed changes to the health system which are outlined in the White Paper: Equity & Excellence: Liberating the NHS, published in July 2010. The White Paper gives responsibility to GPs for commissioning health services on behalf of their patients.

‘Hunts Health’ and ‘Borderline Commissioning Consortia’ will bring together clinical and financial responsibility for buying health care services with the aim of improving patient’s experience of health care services, improving quality and, at the same time, using resources more efficiently.

‘Hunts Health’ and ‘Borderline Commissioning Consortia’ will be responsible for buying an agreed range of services for their patients - although some elements of commissioning will continue to be carried out by NHS Cambridgeshire as part of the pilot scheme.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, Chief Executive of NHS Cambridgeshire said: “We hope that more GP consortia in Cambridgeshire will be in a position to ‘go live’ in the near future.”

However some doctors believe the Government faces an uphill struggle to win the profession’s support for their far-reaching plans.

A poll by GP magazine Pulse poll reveals that support has fallen away since the launch of the white paper in July, with more now opposing than backing the plans as the deadline for responses to the consultation draws near.

Asked if they backed plans to hand GPs commissioning responsibility, 38% told Pulse survey yes but 49% said no, compared with 51% saying yes and 31% no in a similar poll after the white paper was launched.

Just 28% said they believed general practice had the capability to manage the proposed £80bn commissioning budget, while 59% did not, against 38% saying yes and 38% no in July’s poll.

GPs were split over the Government’s plan to scrap PCTs, with 40% backing the move but 45% opposing it.

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