Consortia ‘cannot fill SHA gap’
GP consortia will not have the strategic powers to reconfigure hospital services effectively under the government's proposals for health service reform, says a report from the King's Fund.
The report argues that relying on market forces will not deliver the required £20 billion efficiency savings without increasing health inequalities, and calls for a bigger role for the NHS Commissioning Board to ensure changes that are in the best interest of patients can be driven through.
The report is based on a detailed analysis of recent service reorganisations in south-east London, where four local hospitals had been struggling with financial problems amid concerns over patient care.
It found that the role of the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) was vital in tackling the challenges these acute hospitals faced - a role that GP commissioners will face great difficulty fulfilling after SHAs are abolished, the King's Fund says.
Report author Keith Palmer also recommends that highly performing foundation trusts should be supported to acquire financially challenged NHS trusts and share their improved models of care.
Palmer commented: "With the NHS facing an unprecedented financial challenge, major changes to the way hospital services are provided are essential. Relying on market forces alone will not deliver the changes needed, with the risk that patient care will suffer. It is vital that the health bill currently before Parliament provides the right levers to drive the changes needed."
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By Caroline Price