5 April 2013
NHS reform gets underway in April, and many changes coming to the public healthcare system are sparking controversy. In what’s been called the most radical shake-up in the history of the NHS, a network of GP-led groups are being created to manage NHS England, along with its budget.
The entirety of NHS staff will be affected, all 1.4 billion members, and yet, most patients won’t notice much of a difference. They’ll still call up the surgery to order prescription refills for chronic illnesses and health issues. They’ll still book an appointment with their GP when something’s wrong. Hospitals and A&E will continue to provide emergency services. For the most part, many patients will operate just as before, but the way the system is run internally is about to have a massive shake-up.
The private sector’s offerings will be allowed to expand under the new system. Many supporters are highlighting the positive effect this will have on the quality of care available in the UK. If private healthcare providers are in fact offering better service, this will make things more competitive and ultimately improve healthcare across the board.
Historically, the private sector has played an important role in providing healthcare where the NHS cannot. Private services have been utilised by the Government to provide non-urgent care. For example, the Labour party have previously sanctioned the private sector to bid for non-emergency operations, ensuring patients paid as little as possible for treatment operated outside the realm of the NHS.
At the moment, roughly five per cent of money spent on health goes to non-NHS providers.
GPs and the budget
Many are concerned about the effect NHS reform will have on the doctor-patient relationship. Currently, it is the GPs’ responsibility to refer a patient to the right area, however, reform measures may affect this system as GPs gain control of a large portion of the NHS budget. GP referrals rely on the assumption that family doctors have their patients’ interests at heart, but now that they hold the purse strings, GPs may have a hidden, money-saving agenda.
Community involvement and disease prevention
As part of healthcare reform, local governments will be focusing on preventative measures and public health. Approximately £3 billion a year will be devoted to these measures throughout the UK, and with good reason. Stopping smoking, proper nutrition, and increased physical activity can greatly reduce national healthcare spending over time, as healthy lifestyles are highly effective in preventing disease, and therefore, costly treatment. Councils are assigned this task as they are better equipped to influence lives through community planning, schools and leisure services. However, they won’t have to go at it alone. Many public health directors have been transferred to assist local authorities in executing this task.
Critics and supporters alike are closely watching what effect reforms have on the NHS, and how they affect the British population. Many believe the reforms will either make or break the NHS.
Posted by Edward Bartel
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