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Health authorities blocking change, say PCTs

Published on 21/10/03 at 01:29pm

Strategic health authorities are too far removed from PCTs to help them innovate as they work on their plans for the future, according to the NHS Alliance.

A survey of PCTs has found SHAs accused of trying to block change and 'top-slicing' funds intended for improvements to patient services.

Dr Michael Dixon, Chairman of the NHS Alliance, said: "Problems like these could get worse as PCTs become increasingly responsive to their local agenda and SHAs are welded to that national one."

PCTs need a new relationship with SHAs, hospitals and the Department of Health in order to successfully deliver the new three-year plans, Dr Dixon told delegates at the Alliance conference.

Newly announced three-year budgets are supposed to allow them to make long-term plans with greater certainty. From next April, PCTs will be in charge of three-quarters of the NHS budget, able to commission services as they see fit.

Dr Dixon warned, however, that as PCTs assert their independence they must not become another layer of bureaucracy.

"As we loosen the ties at the centre, we must become increasingly accountable to the public in our own areas. The very means of the change that we want to see is the proper involvement of local people, patients and frontline professionals."

Meanwhile, fewer than half of PCT lead nurses have been able to access resources from the annual budget round to improve patient services."

One in five nurses was reliant on support from the pharmaceutical industry and nearly a third had to make efficiency savings in existing services to find the money.

Workload pressures were blamed with a majority of nurses finding that they had insufficient time allocated for their PCT role to allow them to carry out their duties.

"There is so much optimism among PCT lead nurses. They recognise they have an opportunity to influence the health agenda, and see themselves as catalysts for modernising services", said NHS Alliance Nurse Lead Lorna Potter."

"That makes it all the more disappointing that so many are struggling for essential funding, training and support."

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