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In my opinion: Clinical Commissioning Group is positive step for NHS

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 14, 2014

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I was interested to read the article (WMN August 7), regarding a Clinical Commissioning Group tackling a provider which it had realised was failing to provide a good service.

It is to be hoped that there is finally a body in place that is checking just what is going on and where tax money is going. This is so long overdue as to be unbelievable. All previous “watchdogs” have been almost totally impotent, with trusts seemingly able to spend money on whatever takes their fancy or is flavour of the month, with patients being told how lucky they are to get any sort of bad service because it’s “free” and trusts claiming lack of funds for essentials. With the Clinical Commissioning Group calling in the heavies to look at the hospital transport debacle, can we hope this is a sign of things to come?

It would also be a help for there to be a way of distinguishing between the two uses of the word “private”. In an NHS context “private” is frequently seen as pornographic. A quick reality check would show that a large part of the NHS is already “private” in that private providers are used in numerous sections. Many people hearing the word “private” assume this automatically means they will be paying. There are many private providers operating, with NHS patients using them without paying. There are also private providers where the patient goes, as though for a haircut, and coughs up the cost at point of use. Most debates on the NHS confuse the two, with the word “private” almost leading to mass hysteria.

If any service is free at point of use and paid for with tax money then the important thing, whether that service is from a private provider or an NHS provider, is that someone, somewhere, checks that what is being provided is up to scratch and that corners are not being cut. To let a service meander on providing below standard treatment merely because it is “NHS” makes little sense other than in political point-scoring terms. If the service is “privately” provided then the absolute essential is that some monitoring body has overall vigilance that value for money is being provided – as it would seem the Clinical Commissioning Group is doing in this case. Let’s hope such vigilance is carried forward throughout the NHS.

Of absolute further importance, now that private providers are increasing, would be for an independent body to check just where any contracts are going – and why. As with any public spending there is a huge risk of handshakes and palms being greased. I once worked in a country, the health service of which is held up as a world example. Patient treatment was funded by insurance. In one section of the service, new publicly-funded facilities lay little-used whilst antiquated and dangerous private facilities were over-subscribed. The latter were owned and run by doctors with their fellow doctors sending patients to them rather than to the up-to-date public facilities. They had formed a cartel in order to get the insurance payments. Unfortunately a medical degree does not ensure absolute ethics once money enters the equation.

With increased “privatisation” here such an overseeing body is hugely important – before the first scandal of millions being passed over via bribes. There have already been scandals regarding payments to dentists for non-existent or exaggerated NHS treatments. Let’s hope we don’t start to get unnecessary medical treatments or operations being billed with payments going into similar cartels.

Oh for the days of Carry On Doctor! We were so innocent.

This is an extended version of a previous letter.

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