NHS is ‘heading for a £95m shortfall’ – GP

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A GP who chairs the new group responsible for commissioning key NHS services in this area says we are heading for a £95million ‘fiscal cliff’.

Addressing an audience in Hassocks Dr Minesh Patel (pictured) said: “We have a rapidly ageing population but we’ve got a shrinking carer population of people in their forties and fifties so we’ve got a time-bomb heading our way.

“Fifty-five per cent of our budget [in Mid Sussex and Horsham] goes on our hospitals – that’s about £95million. Carers save us about the same amount so social and NHS care is heading for a fiscal cliff because of this demographic profile.”

Dr Patel chairs the Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which will play a pivotal role in the new-look NHS.

From next month, CCGs will officially replace the work of primary care trusts in a major re-organisation of the health service that puts doctors in the driving seat.

Dr Patel outlined the aims of his commissioning group after being invited to address the Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint branch of the Labour Party at Adastra Hall.

He said: “I have seen five re-organisations during my 22 years in the NHS.

“This re-organisation has created the most complex architecture that I have ever seen.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for us to see that it connects as well as it should.”

Dr Patel said a key priority is helping the frail elderly by integrating existing services, with social services and the NHS working closely together to keep patients from reaching crisis point.

“We are putting health and social care teams together under one line management,” said Dr Patel. “Burgess Hill, Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint is the first area to have a multi-disciplinary team.

“It went live two- and-a-half weeks ago and will be rolled out across our patch.”

The teams include community nurses, care managers, social workers and geriatricians who are specialists in elderly medicine.

Dr Patel said: “Elderly people with an acute problem end up on a hospital trolley and it might be four days before they see the right specialist.

“If you have a geriatrician in the community who sees patients much earlier in their deterioration you can get a better outcome.

“We will be having regular care conferences to discuss their needs.

“We’ve also developed a rapid access service at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) for our frail elderly coming into A&E and we have re-located our out-of-hours GP service there.

“Historically, the NHS has spent just one per cent of its budget on prevention services and we need to do more to prevent extremely debilitating long-term illnesses such as diabetes.”

Dr Patel acknowledged the vital role charities play in helping the elderly in the community, but said voluntary organisations were often handicapped by funding problems.

“What we are trying to do is put some charities on a three-year contract so they can achieve what they are trying to do and plan ahead,” he said.

The Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group covers a quarter of a million people and contains 23 GP practices, with essential cross-border co-operation to provide a network of joined-up care.

“We are a relatively small organisation,” said Dr Patel. “We are very challenged in what we are trying to achieve and our priorities are no more than a handful – that’s the most we can do.”