Suffolk: GPs’ fears over NHS shake-up

MOST family doctors in Suffolk fear a radical shake-up of the NHS will leave them with less time to treat patients, an EADT survey has revealed.

Primary care trusts and strategic health authorities are set to be axed from 2013, and the coalition Government wants GPs to take on their responsibilities for running the NHS – commissioning services and managing budgets.

But in an exclusive EADT survey of Suffolk’s GPs, many feared the proposal – which would be the biggest shake-up in the NHS for decades – could cause problems. However, one of the county’s MPs is adamant the changes will benefit patients in Suffolk, but conceded the survey shows there is still some way to go to get the message across to a minority of doctors.

Of the 20 GP surgeries which responded (about a quarter of those in Suffolk), 90% said they thought it would take doctors away from frontline care.

Eighty per cent said they were not interested in taking on the responsibility of commissioning and managing the health budget, while 60% did not believe it would save any money.

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Conversely, there were GPs who said they were determined to make a success of the new system, and were frustrated that the transition was moving too slowly.

Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Dr Dan Poulter believes the new system will be a good thing. He added the response he and South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo got during a meeting with the Clinical Society at Ipswich Hospital was positive.

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Dr Poulter said: “More than 100 doctors were at the meeting and they were broadly supportive of the changes, but I think it’s about getting over that fear that every single doctor is going to be tied up in management.

“What these changes are about is empowering doctors to make their decisions more locally.

“What it will mean is GPs will make sure less money is spent on management and bureaucracy, and more money is spent on frontline services.”

Many of the GPs who responded to the survey reiterated the same concerns – that they didn’t currently have time to take on the extra responsibility.

One wrote: “When will GPs find the time to do it? Who will see the patients?”

Another said: “There has been poor consultation, no clear plans, and the changes are being imposed”

Meanwhile, one doctor stated: “The Government’s plans are said to be based on patient choice and market forces with reduced interference from central government. I find very few patients interested in choice.”

However, there was support from some GPs, with one writing: “Doctors in charge of doctors is much better than non-doctors telling doctors what to do.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said last night: “Putting GPs in charge of commissioning will make the NHS more efficient and patient-centred. We are not asking GPs individually to take on commissioning responsibility. The principles are clear – all practices will need to be part of a consortium. We know that not all GPs will choose to play a leading role in commissioning consortia, and our plans are based on that idea – that’s why it’s commissioning by consortia rather than individual practices.”

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