Norwich GPs banding together to face health reforms

GPs in Norwich are in the midst of forming a new group which will be in charge of shaping the city's health services.

The health and social care bill, published this week, will see all 152 of England's primary care trusts (PCTs) scrapped alongside 10 strategic health authorities.

GPs will be given about 80pc of the NHS budget – currently topping �100bn a year – to commission services for patients.

Doctors in Norwich are currently voting on an executive committee to lead a city-based consortium and NHS Norfolk has asked GPs to decide on consortia by April 1 this year.

HealthEast CIC, which covers Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and the North Norfolk Health Consortium, which includes practices in Drayton, Wroxham, Brundall and Blofield, have already been accepted nationally as pathfinders, and a west Norfolk consortium has also been formed.

NHS Norfolk said the south of the county has many smaller practice-based commissioning groups and it remains to be seen if they will join together as one large consortium or stay in smaller groups.

The plan is for consortia in Norfolk to start to take over some services in the coming year with the help of the PCTs, then in 2012-13 they will be leading with support from PCT, ahead of taking over completely in April 2013, which is when the PCTs will be scrapped.

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Ian Mack, pictured right, NHS Norfolk's clinical executive committee chairman, said the idea was to strip out bureaucracy and 'top down' targets, and replace them with local solutions.

'Commissioning is very much a back office function,' says Dr Mack - so barring any major disruption, patients should not notice too much.

Dr Mack added: 'An organisation led by clinicians and GPs will be flexible about how to deliver healthcare to improve health outcomes for their area.

'There's much greater autonomy for what they can do.'

As GP consortia start to take control of budgets and services, patients should start to see more localised services in their communities.

The wider health reforms are aimed at giving patients more choice, such as choosing hospitals and GPs, as practice boundaries are scrapped.

But the national plans have come under fierce attack from health unions and doctors' leaders worried that the reforms are 'too much too soon'.

There has been widespread concern over measures to increase competition between NHS providers and private companies.

The timing of the reforms has also been questioned.

The NHS is currently trying to find �15bn to �20bn in efficiency savings.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email