Prescription for future of health care

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DOCTORS leading Suffolk’s move to practice-based commissioning of health care say it will give patients better and more localised services.

Though the new method of organising health care does not come in until 2013, with practices taking on most of the oversight responsibilities of primary care trusts, they are already creating systems for it.

All Suffolk’s practices are forming consortia, except the Ixworth Surgery.

The biggest is West Suffolk, with 26 practices responsible for 234,780 patients in an area from Woolpit to Mildenhall and Brandon to Haverhill, including five Bury St Edmunds practices.

East Suffolk is split between three, with the largest being Suffolk Brett Stour responsible for 98,602 patients from Shotley to Stowmarket.

The consortia are based on organisations already in place for ‘buying’ services under the existing system.

Dr Christopher Browning, interim chairman for West Suffolk, and Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of Suffolk Brett Stour, say consortia are the best method because practices are too small to commission services effectively. The 9,221 patient Ixworth Surgery this week declined to comment.

Dr Browning said: “It gives us a much better chance to match the services to needs than a national system but you mustn’t get too small or you lose economies of scale.”

Both consortia are introducing new ‘patient pathways’ to services now. Dr Browning said they had people shadowing PCT work for the next year.

“Little bits will improve as we progress.,” he said. “Where they had trips to hospital they might be seen at a local clinic.”

Dr Shenton said they already had consultants asking why certain things had to be done in hospitals.

“A lot of patients find it easier to access services closer to their homes,” he said. “One of the benefits we can offer outpatient services is to use our rooms.”

“Patients can have tests at surgeries in their communities so by the time they see a consultant he is in a good position to make decisions about the next step.”