Skegness has to ‘fight its corner’

A DOCTOR leading Skegness’s health service has said the town will ‘have to fight its corner’ to ensure patients’ needs are met amid changes to the NHS.

Dr Derek Dewar explained how the government’s controversial Health Bill would affect local services to Skegness Hospital Watch members at their latest meeting.

As East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s chairman, Dr Dewar and his colleagues will soon replace the Primary Care Trust, taking responsibility for the commissioning of health services and deciding how patients will receive their treatment.

This transition, led by the health secretary Andrew Lansley, has been widely condemned by experts who fear it will damage the NHS, but despite voicing concerns of his own, Dr Dewar, insisted opting out was not a possibility.

“It’s not a situation where you are given a great deal of choice - the rules are made and we have to play by them - I’m not here to defend the system, I’m not even trying to say it’s a good system but it’s not a question of saying you’re not interested - someone has to do it,” he said.

“The attraction of it is that we will have more of a local feel when it comes to applying pressure to get services - the down-side is, will you be able to release enough time to get this done?”

Although much of the group’s administrative functions will be carried out by a clerical team, GPs are also expected to take on new time-consuming, decision-making roles, previously left to the PCT. Dr Dewar revealed that enough time to see 160 patients would be lost every week to these management tasks, although those appointments, he claimed, will go to other GPs.

With only half the administrative budget per patient available to the CCG as was to the PCT, however, Hospital Watch’s Geoff Poulter felt the GPs had been ‘thrown in at the deep end’.

Dr Dewar also said there may be ’budget tensions’ between the three hospitals included in the ELCCG, (Skegness, Louth and Boston) and GPs would have to ‘fight their corner’ to ensure the group’s financial allocation benefited their patients.

GPs in each of the towns decided to join under one group to benefit from economies of scale and to reduce the risks of budgets being blown by expensive procedures.

Every patient in Lincolnshire has a budget of £1,700, which despite, health costs rising year on year, has remained stagnant under the latest changes. With expensive operations costing £4,800, Dr Dewar said it made ‘common sense’ to widen the group to protect it from expensive procedures, which could upset unbalance smaller isolated budgets.