Patients want GPs arguing for hospital closures to quantify benefits

Patients trust GPs who argue why hospital services should close to improve care but want potential benefits to be quantified so success can be judged, according to a leading GP.

‘If you shave a ward off every hospital, you’ll save very little. We are going to have to close hospitals.’
‘If you shave a ward off every hospital, you’ll save very little. We are going to have to close hospitals.’

‘The public generally do trust you because you are a doctor,’ Dr Johnny Marshall, a member of the National Association of Primary Care’s executive told a meeting of the Westminster Health Forum in central London about commissioning on Wednesday.

‘But they want you to be able to quantify, perhaps in terms of 10 or 20 lives saved a year, what would be the consequences of certain actions. In that way they can measure how successful you were.’

Dr Marshall was speaking about the need for openness and public involvement when difficult rationing or decommissioning decisions had to be made. Money could often be saved by reducing secondary care services and pushing work into the community, closer to patients, which is popular with them.

He added: ‘The crucial part of the whole process is that you can’t keep commissioning new things. You also have to stop doing things that don’t have the same level of value. It’s really important to explain outcomes to the population so you’re not just creating fear by removing facilities.

‘If you shave a ward off every hospital, you’ll save very little. We are going to have to close hospitals.’

Gary Belfield, associate partner at consultants KPMG, said up to 30% of patients in hospitals could safely be seen in ‘lower-value settings’, which could provide opportunities for third sector involvement.

* Read our Inside Commissioning blog for the latest thinking on redesigning healthcare

GP magazine is a media partner for Commissioning 2012, an event in London on 27-28 June featuring over 700 GPs and primary care managers. Speakers are expected to include health secretary Andrew Lansley and NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.

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