Redbridge GPs take control of NHS budgets – but what does it mean for residents?
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It has been heralded as a way of improving care for patients, by putting the men and women who know best at the heart of deciding how money is spent.
GPs may not have come into the profession to sit around a table with vast budgets to allocate, but that is exactly what some will now do.
On Monday the borough’s primary care trust – NHS North East London and the City – was abolished.
In its place is the Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Every GP in each of the borough’s 46 practices has been required to sign up to the group, which will have £292million to spend this financial year.
The CCG board of nine members, headed by acting chairman Dr Anil Mehta, includes elected GPs, a senior nurse, lay members, senior NHS managers, a practice manager and a secondary care consultant.
Responsibilities include the buying of healthcare services, from cancer care and mental health to hospital operations and prescriptions.
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Dr Mehta said the CCG’s aim is to develop the “full potential of the clinical leadership of commissioning”.
He added: “The CCG clinical directors and I believe that clinical commissioning gives all of us the freedom to respond, innovate and develop services in the way that best meets the needs of local people.”
But not all doctors in Redbridge feel the new model is the best way to deliver health services. Locum Dr Anil Shah, who has been a doctor since August, fears the CCGs could lead to a “back door privatisation of the NHS”.
Dr Shah, 32, added: “In a way it’s harder to commission [services] because you’re competing with so many smaller CCGs. There are a lot more CCGs than primary care trusts – what it could lead to is a postcode lottery.
“What you need is a CCG for north east London so everyone gets the same care.”
Despite the CCG now being active, he said he would not be directly involved in day-to-day decision making.
He added: “The commissioning board’s decisions will be cascaded down but not every GP will have a vote.”