NHS reforms branded 'a reckless gamble'

ANGRY politicians have hit out after the Government sounded the death knell for all primary care trusts including NHS Hartlepool.

Town MP Iain Wright said the radical shake-up of the nation's health service was "a reckless gamble" that could lead to the break-up of the NHS.

His fears come after the Government yesterday took the first step towards passing the controversial Health and Social Care Bill which will lead to more than 150 NHS organisations being scrapped and have a major effect on how services are provided in Hartlepool and east Durham.

Under the plans all of England's 151 primary care trusts (PCTs) would be scrapped and replaced by a consortia of GPs that will be handed the bulk of the 100 billion health budget to buy-in services for patients from 2013.

A new NHS commissioning board will oversee the process.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley insists they will save the NHS more than 5 billion by 2014-15 and 1.7bn every year thereafter – money which will be reinvested into services for patients.

Mr Lansley said: "Modernising the NHS is a necessity, not an option – in order to meet rising need in the future we need to make changes.

"We need to take steps to improve health outcomes, bringing them up to the standards of the best international healthcare systems, and to bring down the NHS money spent on drugs."

Mr Wright said: "I think this is a reckless gamble and a huge experiment with one of our most cherished and valued institutions.

"These measures could lead to the break-up of the NHS.

"I agree with GPs having more of a say, but I fail to see how the big social and health challenges such as teenage pregnancy and smoking cessation, that Hartlepool in particular is facing, will be tackled by a consortia of GPs unlike the PCTs who have a strategic overview.

"If it is not broken then why do they feel the need to fix it?"

Grahame Morris, Easington Labour MP and member of the Health Select Committee, said: "Whilst broadly welcoming a greater clinical involvement in commissioning this shake-up of the NHS goes far and beyond simply involving clinicians in spending decisions.

"Andrew Lansley is seeking to handover the lion's share of the taxpayer's health budget, some 80 billion, to private GP-consortia in a move to introduce a competitive market in health care creating the conditions for privatisation."

The Royal College of Nursing Northern Region has also hit out at the plans.

Glenn Turp, Regional Director for the RCN said: "Nurses can provide vital clinical expertise, and yet there is no statutory requirement for GP commissioners to include nursing representation on their management boards. It suggests that the value of nurse leadership is not being taken seriously."