NHS gears up for biggest change in its history

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Posted 02/10/2012

The NHS in England is on high alert to make sure there are no failings as it gears up for the biggest change in its history, the head of the NHS says.

In a BBC interview, Sir David Nicholson said the coming months were significant. The NHS is currently busy getting ready for the Government reforms to go live in April. He said that he was determined to make sure care did not suffer during the changes and the bedding in process.

Under the reforms, GP led bodies, known as clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will take charge of much of the NHS budget, replacing primary care trusts which will be scrapped.

Sir David said: “I would say the NHS is on high alert in relation to the potential for quality problems as we go through the transition.” He warned the health service not to take its eye off the bigger picture.  

The NHS is at the start of a savings drive – it has been told to save £20 billion by 2015 by becoming more productive.

Sir David said that the NHS had “started well” but more changes were needed. His comments comes as fresh fears have been raised that cuts will have to be made to the front-line of the NHS if it is to cope.

The Government has promised to protect the health service, but research by the Kings Fund based on interviews with 45 NHS finance chiefs, raises doubts. The majority said they were currently managing to make savings without harming care.

But the think tank said that 19 of those interviewed expected care to get worse over the next few years and that 2013 could mark the turning point.

Some 27 managers who took part in the online questionnaire said there was now a high or very high risk that the NHS would not meet its £20 billion target.  

A BBC survey said that of 1,005 people questioned, only 60% believed services would have to be cut. The Poll asked members of the public in England a series of questions about the NHS. 61% agreed that they expected the NHS to have to stop providing some treatments and services in the future due to rising costs and increasing demands. Nearly three quarters said they did not trust the Government with the health service.

Health Minister Lord Lowe maintained the NHS was “on track” to achieve its savings targets, saying that £5.8 billion was saved last year and performance was good.

“Waiting times have been kept low, infections have been reduced, there are more doctors, more diagnostic tests and more planned operations.”

Julie Crossley, a Medical Injury Lawyer at Ashtons Legal commented: “These are difficult and interesting times. It is our view that there will be an increase in claims as a result of the reforms.”


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