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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2011): National Health Service - primary and community care

Ahead of the curve

M. McShane and J. Clough

Health Service Journal, Feb. 17th 2011, p. 20-22

This article presents a case study of how GPs in Lincolnshire were supported by their primary care trust to lead a redesign of emergency care and 60 medical beds at Louth County Hospital in 2007. Their experience offers valuable lessons for the new wave of GP commissioners.

Call NHS Direct if you want to visit your GP

S. Adams

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 10th 2011, p. 1

There are plans for patients to contact an NHS Direct call centre instead of their local surgery to arrange an appointment with their GP. The scheme is to be piloted by 20 practices in Surrey and appears to have the backing of the health secretary. Supporters of the scheme argue that it will increase efficiency, but unions fear that thousands of GP receptionists could be made redundant.

Commissioners flouting choice rules

D. West and B. Clover

Health Service Journal, Feb. 24th 2011, p. 4-5

A report by the Cooperation and Competition Panel seen by the HSJ alleges that several common primary care trust (PCT) commissioning practices such as block contracts and caps on activity are restricting patient choice. Nearly half of PCTs are alleged to engage in such practices, which potentially breach the government's principles and rules of cooperation and competition, introduced in 2007, and Department of Health provider choice directions issued in 2009.

Doctors call for tougher line on privatisation

J. Laurance

The Independent, Feb. 23rd 2011, p. 19

Demands are growing among GPs for the British Medical Association (BMA) to take a tougher stance on the proposed reform of commissioning in the NHS. There is a demand to move from the current position of 'critical engagement' to one of outright opposition to the reform. Last week, at a BMA meeting attended by 240 doctors, members overwhelmingly backed a motion for the BMA to abandon its 'engagement policy' and conduct a national poll to find out what type of industrial actions members are prepared to take. The cooperation of GPs is crucial to the success of the plan.

Getting on course for consortia

Health Service Journal, Feb.3rd 2011,p. 18-20

This article reports the discussions at a roundtable debate on GP consortium commissioning. The debate covered GP leadership development, the skills and expertise required on any consortium board, delivery of integrated care through definition of pathways, and service reconfiguration.

Morning after pill project increases sexual diseases

V. Ward

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 31st 2011, p. 2

Research has shown that a government scheme to give teenagers the morning-after pill free of charge at pharmacies in an attempt to reduce unwanted pregnancies has led to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. The study compared areas of England where the scheme was introduced with areas where it was not implemented. Results showed that pregnancy rates for girls under 16 remained the same, while rates of sexually transmitted diseases rose by 12% in areas where the pill was available free from chemists.

Revealed: the PCT clusters driving transition

S. Lewis

Health Service Journal, Feb. 3rd 2011, p. 6-7

Primary care trusts (PCTs) have until June 2011 to form clusters. Clusters will have one chief executive who will be the accountable officer. Trusts within clusters will retain their boards and statutory responsibilities but could share executive and non-executive directors. Clusters will lead the local smooth transition of all residual PCT functions to the new structure, and in 2012/13 will prepare handover of statutory responsibilities to GP consortia. However, the NHS chief executive has suggested that the clusters could survive as regional arms of the new Commissioning Board.

Why you may have to phone a call centre to see your GP

J. Laurance

The Independent, Feb. 10th 2011, p. 18

NHS Direct call-centres may, in the future, handle calls to make appointments to see GPs. NHS Direct is currently in talks with a number of GP consortia over handling urgent calls for hundreds of thousands of patients. The ESyDoc consortium, in Surrey, is holding talks to investigate the possibility of using NHS Direct for day, as well as out of hours appointments. NHS Direct's medical director, Dr Brian Gaffney, said the service was not planning on taking over routine GP appointment booking. The 111 telephone number is currently being piloted in three areas, but only for urgent calls. Unison has spoken against the plan, saying that GP surgeries should rely on well-paid receptionists instead, thus preserving the 'human touch'.

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