IT is now less than a year until the new-style NHS brought about by the government’s controversial reforms, transferring power to GPs, comes into force.
On April 1, 2013, the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will take over responsibility for the NHS budget of more than £600m for 500,000 people across a wide area of the county.
But the group has been meeting as a “shadow” body for the past 20 months and is now effectively making the major decisions as a sub-committee of NHS Sussex, which will cease to exist at the end of March next year.
As far as Littlehampton is concerned, the first evidence of the CCG’s activity was the recommendation, subsequently accepted by NHS Sussex, not to proceed with a business case for Littlehampton Hospital.
However, Dr Tim Kimber insists that in the long term, there will be genuine benefits for the whole area in the new structure of the health service.
“It’s got to be a better way of running the NHS,” he said.
“We have a track record these past 20 months of doing that, and proving that we can make changes.”
He pointed to two examples of progress made by the CCG.
A “one call, one team” system has been set up to streamline the treatment of frail, elderly people, perhaps living on their own and with several health conditions.
The system brings together health and social care professionals, working with an umbrella call centre run by the Sussex Community NHS Trust.
A GP receiving a call about a pensioner, perhaps in a muddled state, can contact the call centre, which then takes over responsibility, sending a paramedic practitioner trained in assessing such cases, who will then decide the next step, discussing the outcome with the GP.
Instead of the patient, and the GP, being passed around various departments and services, everything is taken care of by the central team.
A new approach has also achieved a significant decrease in hospital admissions through accident and emergency units at the Worthing and Chichester hospitals, where GPs are now working alongside the hospital doctors assessing casualties as they arrive.