THERE is job insecurity among 170 staff at a Chester-based health authority after the new government announced plans to abolish primary care trusts (PCTs) from 2013.
The NHS White Paper proposes handing over responsibility from PCTs – like NHS Western Cheshire – to GPs for running and shaping local health care services.
The idea is to save money by cutting out a layer of management although there are concerns the new arrangements could mean doctors have less time to spend with their patients.
In addition, Cheshire West and Chester Council, in partnership with the new public health service, will be responsible for public health.
Local GPs, led by the West Cheshire GP Consortium, took charge of the £41m prescribing budget some time ago. They already share best practice as well as meeting savings targets. They have also taken responsibility for the outpatient budget and, this year, are overseeing the budget for unplanned care such as A & E treatment.
The NHS White Paper sets a challenge for GPs to build on this work but on a much bigger scale and across the full range of NHS services.
Helen Bellairs, chief executive, NHS Western Cheshire, based at the Countess of Chester Health Park and with a £410m annual budget, said: “We are very fortunate, in western Cheshire, to have a well-established and highly competent GP Consortium which has been working closely with the Primary Care Trust for some time.
“We also have a strong PCT that did well in the most recent national assessment. This means we are in the best possible position, locally, to support our GPs to establish themselves to meet the challenges set out in the new White Paper.”