Saturday, 31 May 2014

NHS Patients Treated Like Commodities

I read with interest in our local press the recent comments by the respective heads of the two clinical commissioning groups covering Reading that their shared views were that the new arrangements had led to improvements in patient care. In particular the comment that "GPs are closer to patients so they hear patients' views and see patient experience" stood out.

Now, apart from the question why Reading should have two CCGs, when many large cities and even counties seem to manage well with a single more transparent body - a question to which as of yet there is no satisfactory answer - we should also remember that GP practices are essentially small businesses in their own right.

In the NHS in England £65 billion of the overall budget in 2013/14 of £95 billion was allocated to CCGs - in other words, two thirds of NHS spending now in the hands of the GPs.

So why is it that in this "closer to the patient" world should a resident in Redlands who lives within five minutes walk of the Royal Berks Hospital ask me, as their local councillor, to explain why their GP had arranged an appointment for them to have an examination in a GP medical centre in Aylesbury rather than the RBH?

This may have suited the GP, but not the patient - who, in the end, was able to insist on being seen at RBH where they received perfectly good clinical treatment.

We trust our GPs - in fact, we must be able to trust our GPs - but are patients now becoming more like commodities being parcelled around an internal market where GPs both commission services and are also the providers?

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