Leader: Time to slow the PCT reformation

Doctors, nurses, health managers and experts have all told the government that its PCT reforms are ill timed and badly thought out, but now even some of its own MPs have added their voices to the clamour.

The House of Commons health select committee, chaired by Labour MP Kevin Barron, has issued a damning assessment of the plans, describing them as 'ill judged and disruptive'.

The committee's report bring together many of the reasons why the wholesale reform of PCTs should at the very least be slowed down. Firstly it prejudices the DoH's own White Paper on primary care by changing the delivery environment before the much-vaunted consultation had even started.

Then the paralysis within PCTs that are unsure of their future is set to undermine core programmes such as practice-based commissioning, as is the potential reduction in clinical and local input to health plans.

Like those at the grass roots, these politicians have realised that the DoH's compulsion constantly to adjust, meddle with or reform services and structures is more likely to drive qualified staff away from primary care and the services it is determined to promote.

The health select committee has called on ministers to abandon this top-down reform in favour of involving clinical staff in shaping change. Doctors and managers have had little luck in putting this message across. Let us hope that the DoH will be able to understand the obvious when spoken by politicians, and will stop to think before ministers run over the reform cliff.

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