Councillor fears for future of hospitals

NHS reforms could divert work away from hospitals to private clinics, says Alf Boom.

NHS reforms in England could put hospital services at risk - if GP-led consortia decide to contract work to private screening and treatment centres.

That is the fear of Honiton councillor Alf Boom.

He led an open meeting on NHS reforms in Honiton recently and says the British Medical Association is due to discuss the Government’s proposals at a meeting on March 15.

Under the proposals, Primary Care Trusts and strategic health authorities will be scrapped and up to 80 per cent of NHS services will be commissioned by GPs.

“Will NHS hospitals be able to compete with competition from private companies to provide services?” Councillor Boom asks.

“This could be the end of the NHS as we know it,” he said.

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“Hospital doctors are worried some hospitals will close.

“We are already seeing redundancies at hospitals.”

East Devon, he fears, could be in a vulnerable position, boasting no fewer than six community hospitals.

“They could be under threat,” he said. “Local people currently have a resource on their doorsteps.

“Because of this, loads and loads of them don’t have to travel to Exeter to see consultants - the consultants visit the local hospitals.

“If everything goes the way the Government plans, private companies will offer services that GPs can buy.

“They can also offer GPs management services, which means private firms could profit from people’s ill health.

“It could be attractive to GPs, because they are not, generally, experienced in business.”

Councillor Boom is a member of a patient participation group in Honiton. It is keen to see patients represented on the GP consortia for East Devon, The Wakely Group.

Overall, Councillor Boom is most concerned that the future of the NHS “may not be there to meet patients’ needs if it is driven by money” and that England will end up with an American-style health care system.

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