A LEADING doctor has explained why he believes the government’s controversial NHS reforms will benefit patients in East Lancashire.

Primary care trusts will be abolished next year under the Health and Social Care Bill.

Their work will be taken on by GP-led organisations, known as CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups).

Bodies including the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nurses, Midwives and the British Medical Association have all opposed the changes.

Dr Chris Clayton is chairman of Blackburn with Darwen CCG, which assumed delegated responsibility for planning and buying health services in January.

He said: “The wish for frontline clinicians to be directing the system and deciding the way healthcare is purchased for patients is not a new idea.

“If you look at why it’s so important, it’s not that GPs are better healthcare professionals than anybody else, it’s that they have an overview of the whole healthcare system.

“They sit in the middle of it with patients next to them in the consulting room.

“They’ve got a view that no other professional gets. Your hospital consultant doesn’t see the whole package or your pharmacist, but GPs interact with everybody, every type of healthcare and social care professional.

"They are going into patients’ houses and seeing what the situation really is.

“There is not a lot of controversy in the system here – we are just getting on with it.”

Dr Clayton gave the example of a new diabetes care strategy, which all 31 of the area’s GP practices helped create, as a benefit of the new arrangements.

“Diabetes care is provided both by GPs and in a hospital setting, so what we’ve done as a CCG is to get GPs and hospital consultants to look at it together.

“We’re creating a new pathway where practices will offer more of that care than they would do normally.

"Also we’ve been able to get those consultants to come out to GPs, to look at the most complex cases and help practices manage them. We talk about care closer to home and this is a really good example.”

He said GPs would be able to address the underlying cause of health issues, such as poor housing, alcohol abuse, smoking or family problems, with the help of social care, council and police partners, when they meet on new Health and Well-Being Boards.

And he believes there will be a greater public voice and level of scrutiny on the new CCG board as it will meet in public and include two lay people, one an expert in patient representation, plus six GPs who form the majority of board members.

“We’ve never had before such direct influence, where what happens at the coalface changes what happens at board level.

“I’m not toeing the party line here - I’ve never seen as much GP engagement before.

“Blackburn with Darwen GPs are very vocal, they hold strong opinions and they are very passionate about the care patients receive.

“I don’t think anybody here would be afraid of helping to change the direction if that is what was needed.

“Locally the people involved will not allow the care of our patients to suffer and we will keep improving.

“On the whole the NHS is a fantastic institution and we will keep that going.”