Essex PCT shake-up 'illogical' - GP's

A GP's group has branded a controversial decision to merge Primary Care Trusts across Essex as “illogical.”The Government announced yesterday that PCTs across the country would be merged, taking the total number down from 303 to 152.

By Annie Davidson

A GP's group has branded a controversial decision to merge Primary Care Trusts across Essex as “illogical.”

The Government announced yesterday that PCTs across the country would be merged, taking the total number down from 303 to 152.

In Essex, there will be five PCTs instead of the current 13. They will be Mid Essex, North East Essex, South East Essex, South West Essex Teaching, and West Essex.

But Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of Essex Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs, said the group had preferred an option of two PCTs county-wide.

He said: “Our recommendation was for two because we thought that two would work.

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“We will co-operate with five but I'll wait to be surprised at how effective five are. I don't think five will make the changes the Government wants because they will be too small to make really effective changes.”

Dr Balmer added: “We don't have a vested interest in one area or another or one size or another, we just said what we thought would work.

“I am a little surprised at the decision as it seems illogical but I hope to be proven wrong.”

However, Tendring PCT and Colchester PCT, which will merge to form the new North East Essex PCT, both welcomed the decision.

Paul Unsworth, chief executive of Tendring PCT, said in an ideal world it would have preferred no change but acknowledged this was not an option.

“There are many ways in which Colchester and Tendring PCTs are already working jointly and so it makes sense to strengthen these ties by coming together as a North East Essex trust,” he said.

Brendan Osborne, chief executive of Colchester PCT, said it had supported the chosen option of five PCTs and added: “We are committed to ensuring that the excellent work and services that Colchester PCT staff have developed and put in place are transferred over to the new organisation.”

Essex Strategic Health Authority had recommended the option of two PCTs in the county during a period of consultation.

Chief executive Terry Hamafin said last night: “The decision to have five PCTs offers a merger that will strengthen health planning and save management costs, with the least disruption, as a lot of the work of the current 13 organisations is already done across the five areas of Essex.

“Now we have a final decision on the way forward we can get to work on the transition and reduce the level of uncertainty for staff and local people.”

The Labour group on Essex County Council said it “warmly welcomed” the announcement.

Paul Kirkman, leader of the group, said: “This is the preferred option of the majority of Essex people and I am delighted that the Government have listened to the people of Essex on this matter.

“The Labour group on the county council have consistently argued in favour of the five PCT model and I wrote on more than one occasion to the secretary of state for health and the minister of state for health urging them to agree this option.”

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