Headlines: September 8th, 2005

The NHS Alliance is warning today that the role of doctors, nurses and other clinicians in running local health services may have been overlooked. The warning comes in a policy statement published today by the Alliance, an independent body that represents primary care.The paper has been produced following the announcement of another restructuring of local management in the health service. This will see Primary Care Trusts across the country merging to create larger bodies similar to the old health authorities.

The Alliance is concerned that the role of doctors, nurses and other frontline clinicians in planning and running local services may have been forgotten in the restructuring. It says that instead of being in the driving seat, as had been promised, the frontline staff ‘could get dumped at the roadside’.

The statement, “Commissioning a patient-led NHS, fitness for purpose and clinical engagement,” says what is needed is a clinical executive at the heart of each primary care trust. That clinical executive, it argues, should have equal status with executive management. It also wants a parallel structure for NHS regional offices and the Department of Health.

The paper also calls for solutions to be found to the communication problems that have dogged existing Primary Care Trust clinical committees. These, the Alliance says, often do not receive copies of essential documents and are not invited to critical regional and national meetings. Members also have little access to NHS national management.

Dr Peter Reader, principal author of the policy statement said clinical leaders in PCTs had played an essential role in bringing down waiting times, introducing innovative ways of treating patients outside hospital, and provided an essential link between frontline staff and NHS management and the service could not afford to discard them.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon added “The new NHS bodies will not be fit for purpose unless they incorporate a clinical leadership structure that links closely with frontline doctors and nurses. We urge the Department of Health to ensure that clinical leadership and engagement is effectively incorporated in the new bodies.”