Family doctors across Cornwall took responsibility for buying almost all local health services today.
The move is part of a raft of radical nationwide changes to the NHS that have seen so-called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), made up of GPs, replacing the old Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).
The new NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group took control of around £700 million worth of health services for Cornwall today (Monday, April 1).
It covers everything from acute hospital care to mental health and children's care, community services to GP out-of-hours services.
Concerns have been raised by the British Medical Journal that one in every three GPs on these new local boards has a financial “conflict of interest” and stand to make a profit from their patients' treatment.
Even the Royal College of General Practitioners warned in 2011, when the project was announced, that this new system posed ethical risks.
Yet NHS Kernow CCG chairman Dr Colin Philip, a GP at the Stennack Surgery in St Ives, said the changes give clinicians and patients more power to improve local NHS services.
He said: “This is an exciting time for the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. For the first time, clinicians will have the power to make meaningful changes to healthcare services and make the health system work locally in a way that is best for our patients."
Some services will be jointly commissioned by the CCG and councils, managing director for the CCG Joy Youart said, so that patients do not “end up in hospital when they could be better cared for in the community.”
“This will ensure hospital and emergency services continue to be available to people when they need them the most,” she added.
A new People's Commissioning Board is also being set up, “which will enable the public to be directly involved in shaping and influencing commissioning decisions,” Dr Philip said.
Anyone who wants to get involved with the People's Commissioning Board should contact Neal Chambers, patient and public involvement manager, on 01726 627895 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
From tomorrow, Packet readers can visit the new NHS Kernow website at kernowccg.nhs.uk for more information on the clinical commissioning group.