No one can deny the warm-fuzzy feelings that underpin the premise of Liberating the NHS as the government looks to reduce the country’s deficit. However, when you are working with a budget of over £100billion and 1.3 million peoples’ jobs, you can’t afford to put a foot wrong.
The NHS is currently undergoing its biggest budgetary reshuffle since its inception in 1948. Control will slowly be decentralised from Primary Care Trusts and given to GPs at a local level. That equates to £60 to £80 billion being moved into the hands of GPs commissioning groups across England, in the hope that there will be efficiency savings and a tangible improvement to patient care.
Enabling a smooth transition will be paramount, not least because of the number of people who will be affected if anything should go wrong - over 835,000 people visit their GP or practice nurse every day.
Underlying the GPs ability to coordinate and commission patient care is the notion that they will be able to book all of their patients’ appointments online through Choose and Book. This is the electronic service that gives GPs a choice of place and date for the patient’s hospital or clinic appointments. When a patient and their GP agree that they need an appointment with a specialist, Choose and Book will show which hospitals or clinics are available for their treatment; bypassing lengthy paper based referrals.
In principle the benefits of this system are huge - but this is based upon the assumption that all healthcare bodies are connected. The GPs ability to commission all bookings is only workable if they have visibility of all the available outpatient appointments. And whereas all the main hospitals can access the system, many smaller private hospitals and specialist units are yet to invest in Choose and Book, leaving them off the GP’s radar.
Addressing this discrepancy is vital if this NHS initiative is to be successful. Getting everyone connected will not only enable competition and improve value for money for the tax payer, it will improve patient