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CCGs already helping patients, says Lansley

Published on 22/02/12 at 10:43am

The government has set out a number of ways in which its controversial health reforms are already benefiting patients.

The reorganisation of GP practices into clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), giving them control of the lion’s share of the NHS budget, is having a positive effect in a number of areas, it claims.

“Examples from around the country highlight that during the first year of emerging CCGs redesigning services, patients are starting to experience improvements in quality of care,” a statement from the Department of Health says.

Examples include work by a new CCG in Newcastle which has led to the number of patients admitted to hospital with emergency respiratory problems falling by 70%.

In Bedfordshire a team has been set up to deal with emergency calls from care homes, helping reduce hospital visits by 40%, while in Wigan a group has redesigned stroke services, cutting the average hospital stay for patients from 56 days to 12 days.

Overall, figures for 2011 show a 0.5% decline in emergency hospital admissions year on year, compared to 4.6% and 3.3% increases in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

“We have always been clear that patients will benefit from putting power in the hands of frontline doctors and nurses,” said health secretary Andrew Lansley.

“We are seeing a positive change in the way our NHS is responding to rising pressures,” he added. “Patients are being treated in more convenient places, pressure on hospitals is reducing.”

This upbeat assessment comes against a backdrop of disquiet over the progress of the flagship Health and Social Care Bill, with opponents concerned at what they see as the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Passed by the House of Commons but delayed by the Lords, the Bill has split opinion and there are question marks over whether doctors and patients are fully behind the changes.

There was anger earlier this week from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and Royal College of Nursing - all of which have opposed the Bill - when they were not invited to roundtable discussions at Number 10 Downing Street on the future of the legislation.

Prime minister David Cameron chaired the meeting, which included representatives from the NHS Confederation and medical groups including other Royal Colleges, and afterwards said a few ‘myths’ about the reforms needed to be exposed.

But the government’s PR efforts were not helped when TV cameras caught Lansley, who is under increasing pressure for his post, receiving a very public dressing down from a pensioner protesting against reform.

Opposition is likely to continue, with the possibility of a motion to defeat the Bill being voted on at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference.

A vote in favour could commit the Conservatives’ coalition partners to act against the legislation.

Adam Hill

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