Health shake-up backed by bosses

HEALTH chiefs have voted unanimously for a radical shake-up of the region's primary care trusts in a bid to save £10 million a year.Board members of the Cambridgsehire, Norfolk, and Suffolk Strategic Health Authority (SHA) announced yesterday the number of trusts could be slashed from 13 to three by the end of the year.

HEALTH chiefs have voted unanimously for a radical shake-up of the region's primary care trusts in a bid to save £10 million a year.

Board members of the Cambridgsehire, Norfolk, and Suffolk Strategic Health Authority (SHA) announced yesterday the number of trusts could be slashed from 13 to three by the end of the year.

The move, which follows a four-month patient-led consultation period, will free up money to be spent on bowel and breast cancer screening, as well as palliative care services throughout the region's National Health Service.

Lindsay MacIntyre, deputy chief executive of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA, said better links between GPs and their patients would be formed in order to forge successful working practices amongst the three newly formed PCTs.


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“There was considerable debate on the matter at yesterday's meeting, and the board agreed that plans for three single PCTs - one each for Cambridge shire, Suffolk and Norfolk - would be supported,” she said.

“It is about how best we commission services through Practice Based Commissioning, which means GPs will engage more with patients to identify local healthcare services they want provided, and to support this we need to have strong primary care trusts in place that are fit for purpose.”

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The outcome of yesterday's meeting will now be submitted to health minister Patricia Hewitt, who will have the final say on the SHA's recommendation.

Board members have also agreed to merge the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and Essex SHAs into one covering the whole of the East of England.

“We have got to think about the future, and reducing the number of PCTs will mean more money going back into patient services,” said Mrs MacIntyre.

But health officials in north Suffolk reacted with a mixture of anger and disappointment as plans for a separate primary care trust (PCT) for the Waveney and Great Yarmouth area failed to win support.

Every GP working in the Waveney area had urged the SHA to support a separate Waveney and Great Yarmouth PCT.

Dr John Stammers, chairman of the Waveney Practice Based Commissioning Board, accused SHA members of not listening to the evidence put before them.

“The SHA has clearly failed to listen to, or accept, the evidence presented by Waveney GPs with regard to practice-based commissioning,” he said.

“It is simply not true to say that a Suffolk-wide PCT will be able to build upon the success of Waveney's practice-based commissioning. The cross-border issues requires a cross-border PCT,” he said.

“The feeling of GPs in Waveney is that this has not been a consultation exercise but merely a re-statement of central dogma from the SHA.”

Stephen Millward, a non-executive director of Waveney PCT attended yesterday's SHA meeting at Linton, near Haverhill.

He said: “The view of all GPs, clinicians, local residents, patient groups, staff and politicians is that people would be better served through a Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT.”

Meanwhile John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said he would be raising the decision in the commons and with the health minister because he felt the SHA had misled the people of Suffolk.

He said: “Nobody I have spoken to wants this. Everyone was in favour of a joint PCT between Waveney and Great Yarmouth. I will not rest until the people of Suffolk get what they want.”

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