Patients could end up waiting longer for crucial operations under the coalition’s plans for the NHS which will hand over £80 billion to GPs and task them with planning health care for the nation.
Challenged in the Commons by Stockton North Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, to guarantee that patients can expect treatment within weeks like now rather than months, Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley ducked the issue entirely.
“I simply asked him if he would guarantee that under the new system, patients like those needing a new knee or hip could expect their treatment within 18 weeks or whether it would be most likely to be 18 months like when the Tories were last in power,” said Alex Cunningham. “But he chose to sidestep the question altogether claiming that patients could expect even quicker treatment because there was less bureaucracy – but there was no guarantee and no details of how they would make that happen.
“Over the last 13 years, Labour’s investment in the Health Service and tight target management has seen waiting lists like those for replacement knees and hips fall from 18 and 24 months to less than 18 weeks. No longer do people have to languish in pain for up to two years – and I wanted to make sure the next generation of patients don’t suffer.”
The government’s white paper will wipe out both Strategic Heath Authorities and local Primary Care Trusts both of which have been central to achieving the highest standards of planning and care – and is handing the planning to local councils and commissioning to GPs.
“I am sure both groups will rise to the challenge but I have serious reservations about the pace at which the Government plans to implement these radical changes – it is not clear who will hold the GPs to account, how they will plan to commission services, how they will be trained to carry out their new role and how we will continue to get good value for money. There is great danger that much of this activity will be handed over to large scale private medical and health care companies who will cream off profits which should be spent on patient care,” said Alex.
“They claim they want to put the patient first – I’m worried that we’ll see a return to the dark days when the NHS was starved of cash and people were left in pain.”