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NHS reform was ‘distracting and damaging’

Published on 06/02/15 at 01:30pm
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Healthcare think tank The King’s Fund has said through a report that organisational changes to the NHS under the coalition have been ‘distracting and damaging’.

It notes that the administration’s alterations to the NHS’ management system have wasted valuable time, and failed patients. It argues the focus should have been fixated on tackling growing pressures on services and its funding instead.

Dr Mark Porter, who is the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) told the BBC: “This report highlights the damage that has been done to the health service and the major shortcomings of the changes, which distracted attention from rising pressure on services and cost billions to introduce.

“The damage done to the NHS has been profound and intense, but what is needed now is an honest and frank debate over how we can put right what has gone wrong without the need for another unnecessary and costly top-down reorganisation.”

During the 2013 healthcare upheaval, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were set up to replace all 151 abolished primary care trusts and the 10 regional strategic health establishments.

Doctors’ group The College – which represents 34,000 GPs in England – opposed the formation of the new CCGs and said the changes threatened to cause ‘irreparable damage’ to care.

The purpose of the re-organisation was to give GPs more say over the way budgets are spent, but according to authors of the report: “A set of policies designed to streamline and simplify the organisation of the NHS ended up having the opposite effect.”

Furthermore, the Fund says that the reforms have resulted in top-down re-organisation of the NHS, and that new systems of governance and accountability have been ‘complex and confusing’.

The changes have also resulted in greater marketisation of the NHS, but according to the healthcare think tank the claims of mass privatisation are indeed exaggerated and that Labour is ‘crying wolf’.

A spokesman for health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: “This independent assessment puts paid to Ed Miliband's myth that the reforms were about privatisation, and highlights why both the public and the health sector should be wary of Labour's plans for upheaval and reorganisation.”

The King’s Fund is calling for the next government to create more emphasis on patient safety and quality of care, plus provide more support for NHS leaders and staff.

Chris Ham who is the chief executive of the body called the reforms ‘disastrous’, adding: “The first three years were wasted on major organisational changes when the NHS should have been concentrating on growing financial and service pressures – this was a strategic error.”

The report concludes that further top-down re-organisations must be avoided along with less emphasis on regulation.

Tom Robinson

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