Health workers facing uncertain future

HUNDREDS of health workers across Suffolk and Essex face an anxious wait for news of their future after it emerged there would be a massive reform of the NHS.

Radical plans set to be unveiled by the Department of Health on Monday will see GP practices given far great responsibility for the funding of health services.

The change could see up to �80 billion nationally distributed to family doctors with primary care trusts drastically scaled back or even scrapped under the plans.

At present, the Government allocates funds to local trusts which then pay for patients in their area to be treated in hospital. Under the new proposals, doctors would receive the money instead and pay hospitals directly for referrals.

Last night both Suffolk and Essex primary care trusts were remaining tight-lighted about the developments although NHS Suffolk said it would remain focused on work as well as reducing running costs.

The trust – which came in for fierce criticism after secretly spending �475,000 on farmland for extra staff car parking last year, employs 222 people.

And across the border at the NHS North Essex a total of 1,575 people are employed, split between the provider side and the commissioning side of its operation.

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GPs could also have to organise out-of-hours services, in a move which may see them resume responsibility for 24-hour care.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The details of our plans for a patient-centred NHS will be published in a white paper shortly.

“In recent speeches, the health secretary has set out the values and vision for an NHS centred on patients; we will ensure that patients share in decisions about their care - ‘no decision about me, without me’.

“He has already emphasised the need to liberate the NHS to focus on outcomes and improving results for patients, as reflected in the revised operating framework which was published on the June 21.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of NHS Suffolk, said: “We are waiting for the government’s detailed paper setting out its plans.

“We will stay focused on our work, which includes improving healthcare services and the health and wellbeing of people of Suffolk and reducing health inequalities, which would see people living longer and having a better quality of life.

“Our financial plans mean we are on track to stay within budget, while keeping the high-quality services for people who need them, when they need them. For example, our work to reduce the number of people admitted to hospital when they don’t need to be will see considerable savings and means people get a better service.

“We are also on track to meet our goal to reduce our organisation’s costs by �1.7m in 2010/11.”

A spokesman for NHS North East Essex said: “We would not wish to comment on the content of the white paper due to be published on Monday until we have had the opportunity to see what it says.”