Yarmouth GPs spearhead initiative

Great Yarmouth and Waveney GPs will be spearheading a new government initiative designed to put decisions on what services to provide and how to run them in the hands of local doctors.

The area’s 26 GP practices have signed up to a consortium, HealthEast Community Interest Company, which is among the first 52 in the country – and the first in Norfolk and north Suffolk – to be given “pathfinder” status to pilot the scheme.

The trial will lead up to April 1, 2013, when primary care trusts (PCTs) will be abolished and GP consortiums across the country will completely take over the buying or commissioning responsibilities from them.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has said that the plan to scrap PCTs would save �1bn and help to slash NHS management costs by 45pc.

However, Dr John Stammers, chairman of HealthEast and a Southwold GP, was keen to highlight the reform’s benefit to patient care in transferring commissioning responsibilities to GPs.

He said: “PCT managers don’t have the same intuitive view of what patients need.

“GPs see 40 patients a day and most clearly know what services are good and what could be improved.”

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One area already being looked at was improving the co-ordination between GP and hospital care to create a seamless transition for patients.

He said: “Currently, if a GP wants a patient to have a chest X-ray, the only way to action it within 24 hours is to admit them to hospital.

“One idea would be having a GP based at the admissions unit of the JPH to overcome this sort of issue.”

Dr Stammers said another area to improve was the co-ordination between health and social services.

He delivered a message of reassurance that it would not seem like a dramatic alteration, rather “just a change of emphasis on what the patient actively needs rather than it being process based”.

Andy Evans, chief executive of HealthEast, said: “GP commissioning pathfinder status is a bit like a charter mark and means the group has been acknowledged regionally and nationally as spearheading the approach to clinical commissioning of services.”

Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive for NHS Yarmouth and Waveney, said: “We are delighted HealthEast, our GP consortium, has secured pathfinder status.

“The PCT and HealthEast have made rapid progress together towards preparing to hand over responsibility for commissioning for our 230,000 population across the Yarmouth and Waveney area to local clinicians in a smooth and safe way.”

He said the PCT had gone a long way in the last year to improve health services and was the fastest improving PCT in the east of England.