Town GPs to lead the way on reforms
click to enlarge
Leading the way: Dr Elizabeth Johnston, chairwoman of South Reading CCG, and Dr George Boulos, of North and West Reading CCG
FAMILY doctors in Reading are poised to be the first in the country allowed to take control of multimillion pound patient care budgets under the biggest NHS shake-up in generations.
Representatives from four GP Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), representing 55 practices covering Reading, Wokingham and Newbury, will be authorised to set their own £600m annual patient care spending if they pass NHS assessments in July.
The South Reading, North and West Reading, Newbury and District and Wokingham CCGs -which are working together in federation - are among 35 of Britain's first wave of 220 CCGs to introduce the reforms contained in the Government's Health and Social Care Bill.
The controversial legislation comes into force next April, abolishing Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and giving GPs freedom to buy services.
Dr Elizabeth Johnston, who chairs South Reading CCG, said: "It's very exciting. It's a challenging and a transitional time, but we have been working hard and want to make a difference."
The national NHS Commissioning Board Authority will carry out performance assessments in six key areas, including each CCG's engagement with patients and clinicians, and progress in setting up Health and Wellbeing Boards - forums for politicians and healthcare professionals. Authorisation is likely to be announced in October with CCGs planning their budgets before taking control in April.
Dr George Boulos, an elected GP board member for the North and West Reading CCG admitted there were still "reservations", but added: "What Andrew Lansley has put forward is a revolutionary shake-up and we need to give it our best shot."
Reading Borough Council health leader Cllr Bet Tickner, who describes the plans as a "Trojan Horse for privatisation", promises to watch developments closely. She said: "They've made a good start but it's a large sum of money and it's important we work together to do the best for people in Reading."
But Dr Johnston denied it would lead to greater privatisation and insisted GPs were better placed than managers to control spending. She said: We always look at what's best for the patient, but it's our duty, as stewards of the NHS. that contracts are the best value for money for the NHS."
This article appeared in Reading Chronicle 17 May 12