Why patients say NHS changes are ill-founded

PUBLISHED: 14:19 06 July 2006 | UPDATED: 11:50 04 May 2010

BATTLING: Villagers protest after losing their right to choose in the prescriptions row.
Photo: GEOFF DURRANT

BATTLING: Villagers protest after losing their right to choose in the prescriptions row. Photo: GEOFF DURRANT

The cash-crippled NHS is more than £500million in debt and has shed 12,000 jobs. Now the Government is rolling out a national programme designed to give patients more choice and more say as part of a patient-led NHS . Health providers are merging, servic

The cash-crippled NHS is more than £500million in debt and has shed 12,000 jobs. Now the Government is rolling out a national programme designed to give patients more choice and more say as part of a "patient-led NHS". Health providers are merging, services are being streamlined and more care is being provided at home in a bid to save cash and improve efficiency.

Private companies are being given the chance to compete for NHS business and surgeries are being encouraged to handle repeat prescriptions on-line

But already Sutton villagers are complaining that they have not been consulted about a move to alter their prescription dispensing service. LESLEY INNES discovered why the changes are proving such a bitter pill to swallow.

SUTTON villagers enjoy life just the way it is in their rural community.

So when the Government launched its plan to radically change the NHS, giving patients more say and more choice, they watched closely to make sure it lived up to its promises.

But before the merger of the county's health providers has even taken place, the villagers are angry because they feel let down.

They claim East Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust has "ridden roughshod" over them, not taking account of their views when it decided to change their prescription dispensing service.

Now if they live within a mile of the village centre, instead of collecting their prescriptions from Sutton's Priors Field doctor's surgery, they must go to the new pharmacy.

Sylvia Farmer, 62, of Station Road, Sutton, said: "There is a lot of anger and dissatisfaction. They have taken away our choice and they haven't even asked us what we think.

"This is a backward measure and they have ridden roughshod over us. I am able-bodied but I am complaining because my rights have been taken away. But for the elderly and mothers with young children this makes life very difficult.

"If you're feeling ghastly, elderly, infirm or struggling with sick children, you don't want to have to come out of the doctor's surgery and go across to the pharmacy to get your prescription.

"Suddenly it has been decided that Sutton is no longer rural. But no-one asked us what we think."

Sutton councillor Patricia Playdell, chairman of the Ely and District Osteoporosis Society and a member of the disabled group ACCESS, understands the villagers' anger.

She said: "People don't like changes being presented to them as a fait accompli. It's happening all the time. Decisions are made but people haven't had their say.

"I went to a meeting about the changes to the health service and I was told I would be able to go to my doctor's surgery and, if I needed a hospital appointment, I would get one there and then.

"Everyone thought that sounded great. But I know it's not going to be that simple. A week later I would get a letter saying the appointment had to be changed and then it would be back to a six-month wait. Sometimes these wonderful ideas are just pie in the sky.

"I think Sutton's new pharmacy will bring more advantages than disadvantages and eventually the situation will settle down. But people need to be consulted and their views heard."

East Cambridgeshire and Fenland Primary Care Trust's prescribing and medicines management director, Ron Smith, said that the PCT had not identified Sutton as an area which required a community pharmacy but pharmacists can apply to open one where they consider their might be a "gap in service".

A national appeals panel considered representation from both the medical practice and the community pharmacy and, subsequently, decided to allow the pharmacy with a gradual transfer of patients from the surgery.

# DOCTORS' surgeries throughout East Cambridgeshire are being urged to encourage their patients to submit their repeat prescriptions on-line. The internet service is primarily aimed at the housebound, disabled, elderly and busy patients.

It is free to use for both patients and GPs and aims to allow surgery staff to monitor medicine usage, conduct medication reviews, improve communications and reduce errors which, in turn, should improve patient care and safety.

The creators of patientgpservices.com hope the service will make it more convenient for patients and surgeries to deal with repeat prescriptions.

They have unveiled their idea to East Cambridgeshire and Fenland Primary Care Trust in the hope surgeries will decide to take it on board.

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