Local response to NHS White Paper planned

Hackney LINK was launched in May Photo: hackneylink.org.uk

A Hackney health watchdog is organising a public meeting this evening to coordinate a local response to the government’s White Paper on the NHS, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, published in July.

Hackney Local Involvement Network (LINK) is the borough’s watchdog for health and adult social care services.

The Health Service Journal has described the 2010 White Paper as “the most radical reform of the NHS since its inception, with PCTs and SHAs facing the axe and GPs set to hold the purse strings. What’s more, the health White Paper must be delivered against the backdrop of the current financial climate and the £20bn productivity challenge set by the QIPP programme.

“The White Paper puts groups of GPs in charge of £80bn worth of public funds…Patients will be able to choose their GP and there will be greater choice in diagnostics and maternity care. The any willing providing policy means that in theory providers will be at liberty to compete with each other as long as they meet NHS standards. How will these freedoms affect the service?”

Some of the key highlights of the White Paper include:

  • The government will devolve power and responsibility for commissioning services to GPs and practice teams working in consortia.
  • Every GP will be a member of a ‘shadow’ consortium by 2011/12.
  • Consortia will start taking on duties from 2012/13 and full financial responsibility from April 2013.
  • NHS commissioning board will calculate practice-level budgets and allocate these directly to consortia and will hold practices to account.
  • GP consortia will include an accountable officer.
  • Each consortium will hold its constituent practices to account.
  • GP consortia will agree local priorities each year, taking account of the NHS Outcomes Framework.
  • GPs will need to engage patients and the public in the commissioning process.
  • Over time the Department of Health will seek to establish a single GP contract and funding model.
  • PCTs and SHAs will be phased out.
  • Patients will be able to choose which GP practice they register with regardless of where they live.
  • The government will incentivise ways of improving access to primary care in disadvantaged area

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of Hackney LINK, said they were hoping to bring together MPs, councillors, the voluntary sector and the general public. He said: “There are concerns that this White Paper puts the National Health Service at considerable risk. We don’t want to wake up one day and find that our health care has gone to the private sector and that the NHS has been left as nothing more than a brand name. That’s why we need to organise a powerful response now. We must ensure that the NHS is fully accountable to patients and the public and is focused on their needs, not the need to make profits out of healthcare.”

The watchdog aims opposes privatisation of health and social care services and is committed to ensuring such services remain free at the point of use. It says that while it welcomes the government’s concern for accountability, it fears the transfer of commissioning from PCTs to GPs will harm the doctor-patient relationship, reduce accountability and require the use of expensive consultancy services and private healthcare companies;
The meeting will take place on Thursday 23 September at 6.30pm at Morley Hall, City Edge, 125-127 Mare Street, E8 3RH. Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, will be speaking tonigh, alongside Malcolm Alexander, Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners’ Convention and local councillor Patrick Vernon. After hearing from the speakers the meeting will break into discussion groups to plan tactics for responding to the issues raised in the White Paper.

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