Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, and his coalition colleagues have paused the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill through parliament for a month.
The government wants to listen to concerns and consult with key stakeholders. The Bill will now return to the Commons in mid June and go to the House of Lords in mid July.
The Bill proposes massive changes in the NHS, but is being introduced so swiftly that many patients as well as NHS and local authority employees and other bodies involved in health and social care feel they have not had enough time or opportunity to understand the detail and have their concerns heard.
In a nutshell, the new reforms will see the abolition of all Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. These bodies currently hold most NHS budgets.
80% of the NHS budget will now, instead, be placed in the hands of individual GPs.
GPs will form themselves into consortia to manage the money, no doubt spending a significant amount on management consultants. The Bill has not yet been approved, and yet GPs consortia are already appearing in some areas. These consortia are in effect businesses, whose primary aim is to make a profit.
When my mother was in full-time care she did not have a GP. She saw whatever doctor happened to come in to the care home. There was no doctor-patient relationship. When I needed the help of a GP to sign some documents relating to my mother’s care, no GP would help – because none knew her well enough to comment on her health.
Once the reforms go through, who will check that elderly people – particularly people in care homes – remain on the radar of local GPs?
And what checks are in place to make sure the most vulnerable elderly people in our communities and care homes still receive good care, even when it doesn’t make a profit?
This clear conflict of interest is something the government should certainly be pausing to consult on.