PBC services improve access but do not reduce NHS costs

Moving care into the community will not necessarily save money, according to the head of a leading practice-based commissioning (PBC) group in Essex.

The DoH claims that the policy, outlined in the 2006 White Paper 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say', will cut the costs of NHS services.

But Dr Shane Gordon, GP and chief executive of the Colchester PBC group, and a contributor to the Darzi review of the NHS, said the policy would likely allow hospitals to develop more expensive specialist services.

'I'm hesitant to talk about savings, because health isn't a closed system,' said Dr Gordon. 'It's a fallacy that moving high-volume, low-risk procedures into the community would make hospitals redundant.

'It would give them the capacity to build up more sophisticated services.'

The Colchester PBC group has commissioned community-based services including ENT, dermatology and a multidisciplinary spinal team, meaning that patients no longer have to travel over 50 miles from Essex to London.

The group is also looking into developing gynaecological and mental health services for the area.

Dr Gordon said the PBC group was motivated by patient demand rather than government policy.

'If GPs don't provide responsive services, patients will either vote with their feet and go to private providers or, worse, vote in a government that wants to abolish the NHS.

'If we don't take control then change will be imposed on us centrally, and that's usually disastrous,' he added.

His concerns come after Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley and chairman of the Health Select Committee, said PBC would likely be considered as part of the Health Inequalities inquiry (GP, 14 March).

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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