Today the Future Forum reported on what medical staff, patients and the public prescribe for the NHS. In short, it concluded that the government’s NHS reform plans need a rethink. But what changes would you like to see?
When I last talked about NHS reform here on Which? Conversation, the government’s ‘listening exercise’ had just been announced. But today, the NHS Future Forum – an independent panel of experts including clinicians, patient representatives and frontline staff – set out its sixteen recommendations, based on what it heard during this time.
The Forum met with 6,700 people and received 25,000 emails in the process, so it was certainly a thorough exercise. With so many strong opinions, hopefully everyone was able to get their voices heard – if you were involved in these events let us know how they went.
Should GPs run the balance sheet?
Back in April some of you told us that you were unhappy with the government’s proposed changes to the NHS. On handing more decision-making power over to GPs, you were worried that new financial responsibilities might distract them from their real job – healthcare:
‘I do not want to be talking to a doctor who is even remotely concerned about resources. I want him or her to be solely concerned about my health,’ commented Denis Mooney
Others felt that if you weren’t happy with your surgery’s monetary decisions, switching to another doctor may not always be convenient or possible, like it is when switching energy provider for example:
‘This wouldn’t be too bad if there were the possibility of moving to another practice if you didn’t like your local one, but in reality this isn’t an option for most people,’ argued Peter Fisk.
No decision about me, without me?
One of the government’s NHS reform aims was to get patients more involved in the decisions made about their care (‘no decision about me, without me’), meaning feedback from patients would play an important role in raising quality.
But how can we encourage more patients to get involved and give that feedback? And can reform actually offer such encouragement?
For instance, we know that some patients don’t make complaints because they don’t feel they’ll make a difference – or even, as one of you put it, because ‘life’s too short’.
So it’s good to see that one of the Future Forum’s recommendations is to give power over to patients and let them challenge local health services if they’re not happy. Although I’m keen to find out more about how this might work in practice.
The Forum’s treatment plan
The Future Forum’s report is hot off the press – and we’re poring over the details – but here are some of its top line recommendations:
- Changes should be implemented only when the local NHS is ready;
- The Secretary of State should remain ultimately accountable for the NHS;
- Not only GPs but also nurses and specialist doctors – as well as other clinicians – should be involved in decisions about commissioning of care;
- Citizens should have the power to challenge the local health service when it doesn’t offer meaningful choices or good quality;
- Organisations that spend NHS money should be subject to high standards of openness and accountability.
We know that NHS reform has been tough on the coalition, but in a speech last week the Prime Minister sought to heal those wounds by giving ‘five guarantees’ for its NHS reform: that the health service will remain truly ‘national’; that efficient and integrated care will be improved; that waiting times will be kept low; that spending on the NHS will increase; and that competition will benefit patients.
We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what the government actually thinks of the Future Forum’s recommendations. In the meantime, what do you think? Has the Future Forum got it right or would you like to make some recommendations of your own?