Health reforms are a “risk”, new Isle of Ely Health Cluster lead says

DOCTORS in East Cambridgeshire say Government NHS reforms pose a “risk” to GP surgeries.

Isle of Ely Health Cluster Lead Dr John Jones fears changes to commissioning could leave practices exposed as they manage their own budgets and services.

The senior practitioner, from Staploe Medical Centre, Soham, says previous attempts to reorganise the health service make him sceptical of how the changes would work.

However he said: “I hope that by being transparent and bringing the population along with us that we will minimise the risk.”

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is adamant GP surgeries should take on more responsibility by April 2013 to tailor high quality care to the specific needs of patients.

“We want to create an NHS that puts patients at the heart of everything it does and is focused on achieving health outcomes that are amongst the best in the world,” he said.

Yet Dr Jones believes: “There are risks.

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“There have been a number of reorganisations of health services over the years and nothing much has changed.

“The worry with this, for myself and others, is that this represents Government saying: ‘Let clincians do it’ and we get the blame if it goes wrong. That is a risk.”

Asked if he thought a move to GP consortia would work, Dr Jones replied: “I hope so. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think there was a chance.”

However he said: “The main challenge is getting everyone to collaborate.

“Different parts of the health service tend to work independently so we need to get people working together.

“It is about doing what is best for the patient.”

Critics of the scheme say doctors won’t have the experience to manage financial responsibilities alongside their clinical duties.

But Dr Jones, who works at a 17,000 patient practice of 10 doctors and 35 members of staff, says: “All GPs effectively run their own small to medium-size businesses. They are the only clinicians who have managerial experience.”

He said a move to GP clusters would “bring decision making closer to the public” and said the aim was to make services more collaborative.

“You tend to find at the moment that a lot of waste happens because services aren’t integrated,” he said.

“We are ahead of most of the country on this but we need to move slowly,” he added.