The government has proposed a number of changes to the NHS in England, changing the way we’re all treated. It says that the new system will give patients more choice, but has it made the right prescription?
Yesterday the government published the Health and Social Care Bill – its vision for the NHS.
It’s over 300 pages long, so our health experts will be poring over the detail for some time yet. In the meantime, what do you think about the changes it proposes?
A prescription for the NHS
The Bill is the latest in a number of publications telling us what the government wants our health service to look like. According to the government, ‘no decision about me without me’ will be the guiding light for the future NHS. What does that mean? In short – it promises its reforms will bring a ‘patient-centred NHS’.
Patients will have more choice – about who treats them, what treatment they get and where they have it – and a new body called HealthWatch will protect their interests.
But could too much choice mean no choice at all? I don’t know if people really want to make all these decisions about their healthcare. Do we really want or need all of these options?
One of the biggest changes we’ll see is the way that health services are planned and managed. At the moment, local Primary Care Trusts are responsible for making sure there are enough of the right kinds of health services in local areas. In the future, groups of GPs will instead be responsible for a lot of this work – and they’ll hold the lion’s share of the NHS budget to do it.
Potential side effects
Supporters argue that GPs have expert knowledge of their patients and so know more about the services they need – but not all doctors are in favour of the changes.
My previous Conversation about NICE talked about some of the challenges such a system will face – for example, could relationships with patients go downhill if GPs have to make difficult decisions about which drugs to pay for locally?
We know from our research with patients that many people really value their GP’s advice about what hospital to choose – is there a risk that we might trust them less if we know that they’re paying for local services as well?
Some people we spoke to were worried that more choice might bring its own problems, with the best GPs and hospitals becoming as overwhelmed as popular schools.
At Which? we want everyone to have access to good quality healthcare, and to get the information and support they need to make choices that are right for them.
Will the government’s changes to the NHS make this a reality, or do you think it’s in need of a second opinion?