A new era has begun for the way healthcare services are delivered in Scarborough - but a local GP says he hopes the only difference patients will notice is improvement.
Dr Phil Garnett, of Filey Surgery, is leading a new group of doctors and other local representatives who will be making big decisions about where our healthcare comes from.
Following a huge Government shake-up of the NHS, it was decided to abolish regional Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and replace them with smaller, local groups, ultimately giving more power and responsibility to clinicians.
So as from April 2013, the commissioning - or buying - of services such as hospital care, operations and rehabilitation services will no longer be down to NHS North Yorkshire and York.
Local services will be commissioned by NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), headed up by Dr Garnett, who has been in practice at Filey for 34 years.
He said: “The idea is that if they give the role of commissioning to clinicians, we are more likely to make decisions that are clinically appropriate.
“We’re in touch with patients on a daily basis and we understand what people’s needs are, which brings in a more local focus.”
Dr Garnett explained that the group is currently going through a shadow year and has already started making decisions locally, though the PCT is still responsible for the budget.
He said: “We have to satisfy the Government that we’re fit for purpose. The process takes us to April and I firmly believe we will be fully authorised at that point.”
In North Yorkshire there will be five groups, with Scarborough and Ryedale CCG responsible for 117,000 patients, 17 practices with nearly 100 GPs.
The patch will stretch from Ampleforth in the west to Ravenscar in the north and Filey in the south.
There will be six GPs on the board, along with others including a lead nurse, consultant, practice manager, accountable officer, director of finance and two lay members.
All GP practices will have their own patient representative group, which will meet with board members on a regular basis.
The budget for our area will be approximately £140 million - but will include a share of the £19 million deficit currently outstanding in North Yorkshire.
Dr Garnett said: “It will be a major challenge and we’re working with GP practices to address that.
“We need to resolve the problem by redesigning services to live within the budget we have.
“But we have agreed as a board that any measures we take, we will not threaten the quality of the service.”
He said part of the plan is to avoid inefficiencies by making sure that patients are referred in the most appropriate way and to the right person.
Dr Garnett explained: “It’s a question of making sure you do everything you can for the patient in general practice.
“You need to try everything you can to resolve the patient’s problem before you refer them on.”
Grappling with a tight budget - with a deficit that could double by April if savings are not made - may seem like an impossible task.
But Dr Garnett is positive that it can be achieved, saying: “I think it’s do-able. If I didn’t think that, I shouldn’t be in the job.
“It may take two to three years. Anyone who says they can sort it within 12 months is being unrealistic.”
He added that this area has been underfunded in the past, but believes it can be a distraction to think about problems that have existed before.
“We need to think about where we are now, and how we get to where we want to be,” Dr Garnett said.
• This month there will be a drop-in session in Scarborough where people can get more information and ask questions about the new clinical commissioning groups.
See The Scarborough News for details.