On Monday 18 July, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, set out the new government’s plans to reform the NHS in England. The plans were set out in a document called ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’. The aim of these reforms is to give more power to doctors and patients in how services look, and how they are delivered.
Please note: these changes will only affect England.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to manage their own health services.
The main reforms announced are:
- Groups of GPs will be given responsibility for choosing which services to buy to provide for their patients. To do this, 500 GP groups will be created across England, replacing the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) that exist at the moment.
- Pilots are expected to begin soon and all GP groups will be in place by 2013.
- Patients will be allowed to register with whichever GP practice they choose, regardless of where they live.
- Patients will be able to choose which hospital and consultant-led team they want to be treated by.
- Patients will be able to see, own and share their own personal health record.
- Doctors will have to keep and publish information on their own performance, so patients are able to choose the best doctor for them. This includes more detailed evidence of death rates in hospital.
- There will be a new consumer champion, HealthWatch England, which is intended to strengthen the voice of patients and the public within healthcare.
Epilepsy Action does not have a view on the merits of these changes. It is too early to say whether these changes will impact positively or negatively on the services that people with epilepsy receive. We will always speak up for people with epilepsy. However we are unlikely to significantly influence the government in these national reforms, which apply across the health service to all patients and all conditions. Therefore we are not looking currently at the value of the reforms, but to ensure that these reforms achieve the best outcomes for people with epilepsy.
What can you do?
The Department of Health has started four consultations, based on the proposals in the White Paper.
- Liberating the NHS: Transparency in outcomes – a framework for the NHS.
- Liberating the NHS: Commissioning for patients
- Liberating the NHS: Increasing democratic legitimacy in health
- Liberating the NHS: Regulating healthcare providers
These consultations close on 5 October, 2010.
Epilepsy Action, through its membership of the Joint Epilepsy Council, will be submitting its own thoughts about the potential benefits and pitfalls of the changes.
As always we encourage all members who are interested to get involved in this process, and respond to the consultation themselves with their own point of view.
Epilepsy is mentioned twice within these proposals, on pages 50 and 53 of Liberating the NHS: Transparency in outcomes – a framework for the NHS. In many previous documents, epilepsy has not been specifically mentioned. The difference this time may be because of our lobbying work to increase awareness of epilepsy among politicians and health professionals. We hope that this document is a sign of things to come, and epilepsy will be given greater consideration by the Department of Health.
Our job is to make sure this happens.
In September, Epilepsy Action will put more detailed comments on the proposals on its website. These will form the basis of Epilepsy Action’s response, and will allow you to see what we are saying to the Department of Health. These comments may also help guide anyone who would like to take part in the consultation, but does not know where to start. If you would like to receive a copy of Epilepsy Action’s initial comments, and its final consultation submission, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The government will publish its plans for social care later this year. A commission to look at how social care should be paid for will be set up, and will report in 2011.
Many of the proposals in the White Paper will have to be voted on in parliament, so many of these changes will not start for months or years. Many of the changes will be included in a Health Bill which will be published in the autumn. There will be more public consultations, and Epilepsy Action will contribute at every opportunity.
Epilepsy Action will make sure the rights of people with epilepsy are protected and their needs are taken into account.