Shake-up of NHS needs to happen, says doctor

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A HALIFAX GP says he is optimistic Government plans to overhaul the NHS will work in Calderdale.

Dr Peter Davies, a doctor at Keighley Road Surgery, said money was stretched in the NHS and something needed to change.

He said: “The NHS is a finite organsation and it’s never going to pay for absolutely everything everyone wants. To expect it to do so is unrealistic.

“It can’t do anything and everything for anyone and everyone. And in fact, if truth is known, it never has.

“I think something like this does need to happen. I hope it will reinvigorate the NHS.”

The government’s Health Bill proposes to axe primary care trusts and strategic health authorities over the next couple of years and pass the budget and commissioning of services to GPs.

But the bill is currently on “pause” as it passes through parliament so MPs can take stock after a storm of opposition.

Dr Davies, who is on the commissioning board of GPs for Calderdale, said: “I think the pause is good, providing it isn’t a permanent one.

“In Calderdale, a lot of us on the commissioning board and the PCT have put a lot of time and effort in and we are beginning to get going with it.

“I’m optimistic that we can do a good job with it.”

Some critics believe GPs should concentrate purely on medicine rather than becoming embroiled in financial and managerial decisions but Dr Davies said it could be about time GPs took on this role.

“There are always worries. It’s a complex role for the GP to take on. A lot of responsibility – albeit we’d be well-supported.

“But the reality is every decision we have made about a patient is to some extent a financial decision.

“If I have to make a referral for a hernia repair, on one level it’s purely clinical – I find the hernia, decide on the repair and send for surgery.

“It’s allowed me to operate as though I’m purely clinical and it would be nice if I could do that. But there’s actually a bit of dishonesty to it. I’ve committed NHS resources to do that, because it costs.

“I don’t think you can carry on saying we are purely clinical creatures, which is something doctors won’t be fond of me saying.

“I think the days where we’re just clinical are going. It might be a grown-up conversation the NHS needs to have.

“I don’t think GPs can practise totally ignorant of the fact that their decisions aren’t purely clinical.”

A particularly controversial part of the government’s bill is the proposal that companies can also bid to provide a service or treatment – which people fear will privatise the NHS.

Dr Davies said: “If it works as planned, it should mean there’s some competition in the system, aiming to sharpen the providers.

“The worry is how to control it. You will see outside providers taking off bits of services which are fairly simple.

“If competition is not fair and well-managed, it can end up being very disruptive.

“There are a lot of unknowns. Noone knows how the balance between supporting existing providers and provoking competition lies.

“No one knows in the country, from the Department of Health, down.”

Dr Davies said he would hope patients would see a smoother service overall and that the decision-making doesn’t intrude into the consulting room.

“What I’m hoping patients see is that services work well together and when we do a referral, from GP to hospital, the hospital is expecting the referral and knows what to do with it. The opportunity we have is by pooling the GPs and the PCT managers together we start thinking in a better way and we can actually get a system which is overall better,” he said.