April sees the end of some things, like the financial year and the beginning of others, changes in legislation as well as health and welfare policies and practices. None more so than April 2013 which marks the most significant changes to the National Health Service since its inception in 1948. Although the core principles of the NHS will not change, the way in which services are delivered will, as the new system is designed to give those using the NHS more control over the services they use. That means not only those people delivering services but those peoples using services too. The new system promotes a sense of joint commitment of professionals and patients to support healthier living and speedier and more effective recovery from ill health. The aims of the reforms are better health, better care and better value for money.
Prevention of ill health and not just treatment will be a more dominant focus with services tailored to local need and priorities and with greater access to health care locally. Over the past eighteen months groups of GPs have organised themselves into Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to take on the responsibility for commissioning 60% of the NHS budget. The challenge for the CCGs is to become effective as quickly as possible given that the NHS s a whole must achieve £20bn in savings by 2015.
The changes this month will probably go unnoticed by the majority as it will not affect direct care being provided to them. However, those changes have been happening for some time. You may have experienced the increase in services being offered in your local GP practice and the development of larger premises which has enabled allied health care services such as chiropody and physiotherapy to be located there. Your local surgery may offer minor operations as well as other treatments that previously would have meant a visit to a hospital. Many patient participation groups have also become more active in preparation for the changes as, for there to be a joint commitment to health and wellbeing, patients need to be well informed and more active in stating their needs to be part of the decision making process.
In the UK we are rightly proud of the NHS and the principles of universal healthcare, regardless of the ability to pay, being available to all citizens. However the world in which the NHS was born no longer exists and the demands on it have increased exponentially to an unrealistic level where people believe it is their right to receive any and every type of treatment regardless of a professionals’ assessment of clinical need.
Rights are always accompanied by responsibilities. Often people do not take up that responsibility as they feel powerless with no voice. The advent of this new system provides the means and the opportunity to be empowered, to step up and be a part of the decision making about local healthcare services. Find out about patient participation groups at the GP practices where you and the people you support are registered. Become involved and ensure your views, and those of the people you support, are heard and form part of the local discussion about services in your community. As the saying goes.. ‘if you don’t use it .. you lose it’. So take up the challenge, be empowered, get involved and be part of the discussion and decision making about healthcare in your local community.
Until next time….