A HEALTH watchdog and MP have hit out at the cost of a major NHS shake-up.
Almost £3.5b will be spent by the Government on replacing primary care trusts with GP commissioning groups over the next 10 months.
It will cost the NHS just over £7m to replace NHS Hartlepool, which is responsible for local health services, official figures reveal.
The figure includes £527,000 to meet the cost of staff redundancies.
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Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Health Scrutiny Forum, says the shake-up will take vital money out of the NHS that could have been spent on care and services.
His comments were echoed by Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, who accused the Government of wasting £50m on the reorganisation in the Teesside region.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “The last thing we need within the NHS is reorganisation.
“The Government said there wouldn’t be cuts within the health service.
“But this is a cut by the back door because it’s taking vital money away from health services by making these changes.
“As well as the cost I am concerned about the skills which will be lost.
“I think it is unnecessary and money has been wasted.
“That means less money for patient care and treatment.”
Coun Akers-Belcher said that while local GPs are better prepared than in other areas, he was still concerned about how the new system will work.
The new GP commissioning groups are due to come into effect from next April as part of the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill.
Mr Cunningham said: “I felt the PCTs did excellent work.
“While there may have been room for some amalgamation and efficiency, I thought they did a good job and it’s unnecessary to have such wholesale reorganisation.
“It is absolutely stunning that the reorganisation of the health service has cost such vast sums of money and hundreds of jobs are being lost on Teesside.
“All this at the same time as local hospitals are being ordered to cut their budgets by tens of millions of pounds.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The Health and Social Care Act will hand more power to clinicians, put patients at the heart of the NHS, and reduce the costs of bureaucracy.
“This will help free up doctors, nurses and other frontline staff to spend as much time as possible with patients. Any short term costs are dwarfed by the £4.5b we will save over the course of this Parliament and £1.5b every year after that will be re-invested into front line care.
“Over 15,000 managers and administrators may have ceased to work in the NHS but there are now 4,161 extra doctors, 934 more midwives and 151 more health visitors. That is where we are concentrating the money—more front-line staff and fewer administrators.”