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King's Fund dubs NHS reform 'too far, too fast'

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The coalition government’s plans to scrap PCTs and hand commissioning powers to GPs from 2013 represent too big a change in too short a timescale, according to the King’s Fund.

In its consultation response to the health white paper Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS, the leading health thinktank, questioned the need for such a fundamental restructuring of the NHS.

While the King’s Fund said it fully backed aspects of the white paper that give councils a bigger role in local health services, and a greater commissioning role for GPs, it argued that the scale and speed of reforms would distract attention from necessary efficiency savings.

Chris Ham

Chief executive Chris Ham, left, called on ministers to rethink their timescales and allow reforms to be made at a more considered pace.

“There are areas where NHS performance needs to improve and we support many of the proposals in the white paper,” he said.

“But we question the need to embark on such a fundamental reorganisation as the NHS faces up to the biggest financial challenge in its history.

“I hope ministers will think again about the plans for implementing these proposals.

“This does not mean putting the brakes on across the board.

“In some areas, they could in fact move more quickly by beginning to test out and evaluate how key elements of the reforms will work in practice.’

The response urges ministers to:

  • Move quickly to work with GPs who are ready to embrace GP commissioning, giving them ‘real’ budgets for some services as soon as possible and using their experience to inform the national roll-out without than imposing the GP consortia model in all areas of the country by 2013;
  • Streamline NHS structures over time as new GP consortia get up to speed instead of abolishing primary care trusts and strategic health authorities in 2013
  • Balance the need for a regulatory framework that promotes competition to drive up quality, while encouraging collaboration where services should be co-ordinated - for example, in meeting the needs of older people and those with long-term conditions.
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