STALYBRIDGE and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds has slammed government plans to reform the National Health Service as “a dangerous gamble with one of the country’s most prized institutions”.
As part of the Health and Social Care Bill the government would abolish Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities, and give the responsibility for planning, negotiating, monitoring and managing £80bn of the NHS services to GPs.
Under the plans GPs would be able to commission services from NHS providers or from private companies. And for the first time the Bill gives the green light for providers to compete on price, rather than quality.
The Bill removes any limit of the use of NHS hospital beds and staff to treat privately paying patients. And it takes away layers of public accountability currently associated with the PCTs and SHAs.
Last night (Jan 31) the Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. And Jonathan Reynolds MP was one of a significant number of MPs who spoke against it.
“The principal goal of the Bill – to transfer commissioning from PCTs to GPs – is, in fact, a dangerous gamble with one of the country’s most prized institutions,” he said.
“Bringing GPs closer to decision-making did not require the wholesale dissolution of PCTs and the transfer of their responsibility to GPs.
“When the Government promised no further top-down reorganisation, they should have meant it, because this reorganisation is ill-judged and ill-advised, as is spending the £3billion that it will cost.”
Mr Reynolds questioned whether GPs were the most appropriate group to commission services and whether the planned changes would create a real gap in services.
He said: “For all the faults that some may ascribe to them, PCTs ensured equity for those who, if commissioning had been done on a smaller scale, would have struggled to have had their voices heard.
“Many GPs simply do not have sufficient sight of some types of work to commission effectively. The provision of mental health services is a particular concern. As ever with this Government, it seems that the most vulnerable will be most at risk.
“If GPs really are better placed to commission services on behalf of patients, why were there shortages of flu vaccines this winter? GPs were responsible for ordering those vital supplies. They had the medical records of the people in their areas; they had the information that they needed in order to make effective provision.
“In my area it was the PCT that remedied the situation, but who will be there to do that in the future? GPs already have to balance financial and medical considerations. Have they really proved that they can do so effectively?”
Mr Reynolds suggested that the reality was that in order to commission services GPs would have to surround themselves with consultants, private companies and ex-PCT staff, if they were to effectively evaluate tenders and deal with contractual issues.
“We will, in effect, have the expense of PCTs as they work on the same things as now, but without the accountability and the economies of scale currently enjoyed,” he said.
Following the Second Reading of the Health and Social Care Bill it will now proceed to committee stage in the House of Commons. To read the full speech delivered by Jonathan Reynolds, click here.
Published February 2, 2011