Barkingside GP who became Redbridge health chief talks of mission to improve care
- Credit: Archant
The Barkingside GP who has become the head of the new NHS governing body in Redbridge says he and his fellow doctors will work to improve residents’ lives and are in it “for the long run”.Bar
Dr Anil Mehta, 45, is chairman of the Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for buying hospital care and services for mental health, learning disabilities and community health.
The group took charge in April after the primary care trust NHS North East London and the City, which was just a year old, was abolished in a government shake-up.
GPs, nurses and doctors are on the new board – a move that former health secretary Andrew Lansley said would give local clinicians the “freedom to use the NHS budget in the best interests of patients”.
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But the concept was initially rejected by many health groups, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, which was “unconvinced” the new Health and Social Care Bill would improve care.
Dr Mehta, however, believes Redbridge GPs are best placed to make decisions for their patients.
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The father of three, who lives in Chigwell, trained as a doctor at King George Hospital, in Barley Lane, Goodmayes, before going to Fullwell Cross Medical Centre, in Tomswood Hill, Barkingside, as a GP.
He has been there for 15 years.
Dr Mehta said: “For the first time in my career, doctors have been asked to set up the governing body so there’s some clinical input in primary and secondary care.
“For the population of Redbridge, I feel having doctors on boards is an advantage.
“A lot of doctors were quite cynical about the changes because historically we have had change after change.
“A large group says this is nothing different than we have been through before but it is.”
As CCG chairman, he will work closely with the new Redbridge health and wellbeing board, which will bring together social services, housing, public health and community safety.
Although the new structure has been in place since April, Dr Mehta believes it will take some getting used to for residents.
He said: “If you walked down the street and asked someone what CCG stands for, I’m not sure many, if any, people would be able to answer at this stage.
“But I’m sure they will. We’re trying to bring care closer to home.”
Dr Mehta is staying close to his roots and still works a full day at Fullwell Cross – fitting his new responsibilities around appointments.
One of his first tasks is tackling the ever-increasing numbers of Redbridge patients going to A&E as King George’s emergency department faces closure and the department at Queen’s hospital in Romford, struggles to handle the highest number of admissions in London.
Dr Mehta said: “A&E is a really good example of how things need to change.
“It’s a national problem and we see large numbers of patients going to A&E because they haven’t had community care.
“An example is when patients haven’t got an appointment with a GP and so they have to go to the hospital.”
A particular problem is people with long-term health conditions, particularly the elderly, who need treatment from different agencies.
Dr Mehta hopes the CCG and health and wellbeing board will bring together doctors and social services to provide “integrated” care.
The doctor, who “likes to practise what he preaches” by running and cycling, also believes increased awareness of public health and fitness can prevent illness.
Dr Mehta acknowledges that improving care in Redbridge is more of a marathon than a sprint, but he has no plans to go off track.
“We are in this for the long run,” he said.