GP's fury as minor surgery service cut

AN OUTRAGED doctor has slammed the healthcare system for creating too many “airy fairy” jobs which he claims have little impact on front-line services.

AN OUTRAGED doctor has slammed the healthcare system for creating too many “airy fairy” jobs which he claims have little impact on front-line services.

Dr Philip Woodcock hit out after learning all the GPs in Colchester have been restricted from performing some minor operations and doing injections in a bid to save cash.

Pain-relieving injections, costing £40 per time, and operations on cysts and lumps, will now be provided by a salaried doctor at Colchester General Hospital instead of at GP surgeries.

Cash-strapped Colchester Primary Care Trust, which funds GP services, is desperate to balance its books before the end of the financial year.

It said yesterday it was simply “tightening” its policy to ensure money was not being wasted.

But Dr Woodcock, who works at the Mersea Island Practice, suggested there were far better ways to cut costs.

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“I can appreciate the position financially but what I would say is that cutting minor operations and injections is a relatively easy option.

“This is separate from the day-to-day running of things where the PCT has employed lots of extra 'advisory' people and they are in many cases unnecessary.

“An in-between layer has been created and it is very, very expensive but of course it is a lot easier to chop my minor operations than to make somebody redundant.

“These are airy fairy intermediate posts that are not front-line and it is very difficult to see the tangible benefit of them.”

He added doctors' skills were being wasted because of having to refer matters on to other people.

“In this particular incident, the end-result from cost cutting means that something I am trained to do has been removed.”

Dr Woodcock also said he was concerned the move from the PCT could become permanent.

But Dr Paul Rasor, co-chair of Colchester PCT's professional executive committee, said: “Colchester PCT has been working hard to identify ways that can help us to achieve our statutory duty to stay within budget by 31 March and these measures should be seen in that context.

“In common with virtually all PCTs, we already have a policy not to do excisions for purely cosmetic reasons and we are simply tightening our policy to ensure this type of minor surgery is performed only in cases where the patient's need is clinical, not cosmetic.

“Patients who need pain-relieving injections into muscles, tendons and joints will still have them but they will be provided by a salaried GP working for Colchester PCT from a base at Colchester General Hospital.

“Both of these measures were approved on a temporary basis by our professional executive committee, whose members include GPs, nurses and other health care professionals, and will be reviewed in due course.”

He stressed that patient care would not suffer during the period.

“If a patient's clinical need is urgent, for example, they have an inflammation, are in pain or there is the slightest suspicion of cancer, they will be seen. There is no question of patients in such circumstances being asked to wait until the new financial year.

“These measures apply only to pain-relieving injections and excisions and do not affect other injections, such as childhood immunisation, and other types of minor surgery, such as burning and scraping,” he said.

He added all the measures were aimed at increasing the chances of achieving financial balance while retaining clinical effectiveness.

“Out strategy has already achieved significant success by reducing waiting times in all areas of health care and meeting national targets for improving health - including better care for cancer and heart patients.”

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