In April 2013 the control of approximately £60bn of the National Health Service (NHS) budget in England is due to pass to General Practitioner-led groups that will plan and buy most routine healthcare for their local community. The idea behind reform is that GPs are best placed to provide the appropriate infrastructure and care for their population. However, the reform plans fall short of providing clear guidance on how this will actually be achieved within a cost-cutting environment, leaving GPs exposed in their new heightened dual-role as business providers and caregivers. There has been increasing levels of frustration around the proposed health reform by professional and patient groups, and to capture current GP-opinion the BBC recently surveyed 814 GPs.
Just 12% of the 814 GPs agreed that putting GP-led groups in charge of the budget would mean patients saw a “noticeable” improvement. The majority of GPs believed there would be more rationing of care because of financial pressures with 83% marking that there would be an increase in rationing in their area. While 12% of family doctors agreed that GP-led commissioning – the buying and planning of services on a local level – would improve care, some 55% said they disagreed and 33% said they did not know whether or not it would.
Ministers have cited the financial challenges facing the health service as one of the reasons they have pushed ahead with the changes in the face of mounting opposition.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, said the findings came as no surprise and reflected what doctors had been telling them directly. “Increasingly, GPs are worrying that they will be blamed for making the hard decisions that may need to be made in order to meet the £20bn savings target set by the government. The government needs to be much more upfront with the public about the scale of savings that need to be made and why. If those who will have to deliver the latest health reforms are unconvinced and reluctant, the government should take notice of what they say.”
Industry will play an important role in bringing together stakeholders to help facilitate change and implement effective reform. If the industry can get this right, we have the opportunity to become a trusted long-term partner to clinicians, health providers and the government and to be seen as true investors-in-health by the public. The industry can provide help in bringing together the right stakeholders to map out how to implement reform, and achieve common objectives. The industry can share expertise and provide business skills to help streamline services and improve efficiencies. By working together and bringing together the right stakeholders, understanding the common agenda and helping to improve efficiencies we can improve healthcare provision, and ultimately improve outcomes for our population.