A GROUP of Erewash GPs has been chosen by the Government to pilot a scheme putting them in charge of NHS services for the borough.
The Coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill, which could become law later this year, plans to abolish all Primary Care Trusts in April 2013, including Derbyshire County NHS, and replace them with ‘consortia’ of GPs who will be in charge of commissioning NHS services.
GP at Littlewick Medical Centre in Ilkeston, Dr Paul Weston Smith, is the chairman of the Erewash consortium.
The group, made up of 13 GPs from practices in Ilkeston and Long Eaton, have been working together for the last five years.
He said the plans will provide care ‘tailored to the needs’ of the 102,000 Erewash patients.
“Our vision is to put patients at the heart of everything we do – so there truly is ‘no decision about me without me’,” he said.
“So, we will make sure that local GPs and our patients are leading the decision-making on health in our area.”
In theory, the move would mean that if there are particular medical needs in Erewash, the consortium could look at bringing services to the borough.
This could mean patients not having to travel to Nottingham, Derby or further afield for treatment.
He explained: “We should be able to respond to local needs.
“If we have a particular issue in Erewash at the moment, 60 per cent of referrals are to Nottingham.
“We could bring those services to the borough.”
He said that the Erewash consortium has already done this with diabetes care, with clinics now being held in Long Eaton and Ilkeston on alternate weeks.
There is also now an X-ray service at Long Eaton Health Centre, brought in by the consortium.
But Dr Weston Smith said that cash, which will still come from the Government, will be ‘an issue’ in the economic climate.
He said: “The problem is there are very limited finances
“Although the Government isn’t cutting the NHS budget, we do have an aging population and there is greater expectation of what the NHS can do.
“The consortium is not the magic bullet to sort all that out. We are going to struggle.”
The ‘pathfinder’ status from the Department of Health has been given to 185 consortia like Erewash’s, including Nottingham West and North Derbyshire.
Dr Weston Smith said conortia members will ‘shadow’ PCT staff for the next two years ‘to see how it will work’ if the bill becomes law.
But the radical changes to the NHS have faced opposition from both Labour MPs and the British Medical Association, which attacked the Health and Social Care Bill last week for planning to ‘abolish’ the NHS.
Prof Allyson Pollock, from the Barts and The London School of Medicine, and David Price, senior research fellow at its Centre for Health Sciences, wrote in an article on the British Medical Journal website that the plan, ‘amounts to the abolition of the English NHS as a universal, comprehensive, publicly accountable, tax-funded service, free at the point of delivery’.
Dr Weston Smith defended the plans introduced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
“I don’t think that’s true. The NHS is going to carry on,” he said. “Andrew Lansley is committed to the NHS. He doesn’t want it to change.
“We will have a greater degree of independence as a consortium, but we will still be responsible to the NHS.”