EXCLUSIVE: The new NHS goes for bigger – will it be better?

Written by Tony Millett on .

The first details of how the proposed major – and highly controversial – changes to the NHS planned by the coalition government will affect this area have been revealed to Marlborough News Online in an exclusive interview with Dr Jonathan Glover of the Marlborough Medical Practice.

He says doctors in our region are being encouraged to set up a consortium covering most of East Kennet and North Wiltshire – on a ‘bigger the better’ basis. It will have a budget from NHS headquarters to commission hospital services and other treatments for at least 180,000 people.

The Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) which it is partly replacing, covers about 455,000 people.

This is despite the clear aim in the government’s health White Paper to bring the NHS closer to patients with “local consortia”. The slogan was to ensure the reorganisation put “patients at the heart of the NHS.”

Dr Glover is somewhat disappointed the consortium will be so large.

Dr Glover said his colleagues were told they had to go along with the plans to become commissioners for the NHS. These are not yet law, but they are continuing their planning even though the Bill’s progress through parliament was ‘paused’ by the prime minister so doubts can be heard.

No one knows if after this ‘pause’ major changes will be made to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s scheme. But Dr Glover expects people other than GPs to be drafted onto the consortia - councillors, other health care professionals or patients.

As yet there’s no mechanism for GPs to consult patients on the changes which include greater access to NHS funds by private companies. The fear expressed by many health professionals and politicians is that this is backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

In Dr Glover’s view this part of Lansley’s plan “needs reining in a little bit.”

Dr Glover also revealed that part of the costs of setting up the consortium will be met by a payment from central funds of £2 per patient. In addition some savings GPs are currently being required to make will pay for start-up admin costs.

Before the consortia take over the budgets from PCTs (scheduled for April 2013) they will have to have staff in place and find a headquarters. Some staff will come from GPs and their existing support staff, others will come from the PCTs.

On Savernake Hospital, Dr Glover confirms that no one knows yet what its future will be, but he and his practice colleagues want to see greater use made of it. He adds: “I don’t think we’re going to be given the free rein to run Savernake.”

Read the full interview with Dr Glover in Marlborough News Online – Features.