The GP pathfinders announced today provide healthcare to 28.6 million people across England. There are now 141 pathfinder groups covering more than 50 per cent of the population, who can start to benefit from their doctors’ proven clinical leadership, good partnership working with local authorities, and innovative ways of engaging with patients and the local community.
The Prime Minister contrasted the response of GPs with those who said there would be ‘no appetite’ for GPs directly commissioning services for their patients: ‘But far from fearing new commissioning arrangements, more than 140 GP-led consortia have now come forward, covering more than half the country,’ he said.
Mr Cameron said the NHS had to modernise because it faces enormous pressures on demand at the same time as rising pressures on costs.
‘We need modernisation – on both sides of the equation. Modernisation to do something about the demand for healthcare – which is about public health. And modernisation to make the supply of healthcare more efficient – which is about opening up the system, being competitive and cutting out waste and bureaucracy.
‘Put another way: it’s not that we can’t afford to modernise, it’s that we can’t afford not to modernise.’
Patients are already seeing the benefits of local commissioning where consortia have been formed. The Croydon Healthcare Consortium, which serves a culturally and economically diverse population, is already leading the way in improving patient access to diagnostics, treatment and care. In response to feedback from patients, the Consortia was able to introduce a pilot locating mobile screening clinics at six Croydon GP practices to provide heart monitoring and ultrasound.
This has provided patients with greater choice and convenience, avoided long waiting times, high travel costs and the cost of hospital parking, and sped up testing, diagnosis and treatment.
In Somerset, the local NHS identified a strong need for improving the management of long-term conditions. As a result of successful local commissioning, specific initiatives have been rolled out to improve the prescribing for patients living in nursing and residential homes and provide patients with a greater choice in end of life care.
In the first six months of the pilot, hospital admissions were reduced by 46 per cent.
There will be more GP consortia coming forward to join the pathfinder programme, which will enable as many consortia as possible to test out the new arrangements at an early stage before GP consortia take on statutory responsibilities from April 2013.