GPC urged to consider scrapping NHS Direct and IT

The GPC should look at whether scrapping NHS Direct and abandoning IT projects would allow the NHS to slash costs without affecting patient care, delegates at the annual conference of LMCs have recommended.

Speaking at the conference in London on Thursday, Dr Nigel Watson (pictured), chief executive of Wessex LMC, outlined that it would be ‘unrealistic' to expect year-on-year increases in NHS funding.

He said NHS Direct, the NHS programme for IT, external management costs and GP-led health centres are areas the DoH should look to when trying to save money in the NHS.

Dr Watson said: ‘Primary care organisations are beginning to decommission walk-in centres because there is very little evidence that where they have been established that they have reduced the impact on casualty or local practices.

‘If you look around the country there are over 70 walk-in centres, and if you decommissioned some of the walk-in centres you will save around £100m.'

Dr Watson added that PFI projects and LIFT schemes are also areas where significant savings could be made.

Dr Miriam Ainsworth, a member of Avon LMC, also said the NHS could ‘save millions' if tiers of management were ‘stripped out, reduced in size or merged'.

‘In the future, as gatekeepers to secondary care, we will be in the business of rationing. Despite the political rhetoric, patients' wants will be reduced to their needs, which must be protected,' she said.

Meanwhile, delegates at the conference carried a motion calling for the government to be truthful about the lack of NHS resources.

Dr Mark Andrews, a chairman of Hertfordshire LMC who raised the motion, said the public needs to be told the facts.

He said: ‘The public need to understand NHS cuts and what they mean for them. They need to understand that with less money there may be less provision.'

Dr Andrews said patient expectations must be lowered ‘from the centre', and said GPs should not be responsible for telling patients ‘what is and isn't available'.

‘If there are to be restrictions to the range of services available it must be decided nationally, not piecemeal, not ill-considered knee-jerk fashion at primary care organisation level,' he said.

Click here for all the latest news from the LMCs Conference 2010

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