The chairman of NHS Hillingdon, Jeff Zitron, claims the government’s health reforms will be good for patients as the Gazette questions him in the second part of our review of how the Health and Social Care Act will affect local health services. Mr Zitron is also chairman of NHS North West London, the regional cluster of primary care trusts
How will the NHS changes envisioned in the Act impact on your organisation?
Primary care trusts (PCTs), including NHS Hillingdon, will be abolished from April 1, 2013. Our work will go three ways: To local GPs, to Hillingdon Council and to a new national body called the NHS Commissioning Board.
GPs will make the decisions about the hospital and community health services their patients need. The council will take on responsibility for public health, including promoting healthy living. The NHS Commissioning Board will oversee the work of GPs, dentists, pharmacists and opticians, and specialised health services.
Do you welcome the changes to the NHS the Act makes?
Having GPs in the driving seat is good for patients and their carers, and for the future of the NHS. GPs can use their expertise and local knowledge to ensure that NHS services meet the needs of their patients. The bigger role for councils in health is also good news. As well as running public health, councils will incorporate a health and wellbeing board to make sure the NHS and other agencies meet health and care needs.
Many patients, especially elderly people, want health and social care services to work together. The new system allows us to build on our track record of successful joint working between the NHS and Hillingdon Council.
How will it change the relationship you have with patients?
At NHS Hillingdon we have always worked hard to find out what residents want from their health services, and where these can be improved. Through their GPs, residents will now have an even greater say.
But health shouldnt only be about the role of the professional, whether its a PCT or a clinical expert like a GP. People need to take responsibility for their own health.
With Hillingdons public health team becoming part of the council, there can be an even stronger partnership between the NHS, the council and residents to encourage people to lead more healthy and enjoyable lives.
Where people are ill, we should be treating them in the community where possible.
Going into hospital disrupts our life, so this should only happen when we need the specialist skills that are only available in a hospital.
How do you think the emphasis on competition and choice affects health services in Hillingdon?
Patients and carers need to be able to compare the performance of hospitals and other health services,
so they should have better information and real choice. Competition is part of that, but the emphasis in the NHS is on quality, not price.
The NHS remains a free service, but that shouldnt mean any provider has a monopoly or that patients
must meekly accept what they are given."
Why do you think the changes have been implemented now?
The NHS is under enormous pressure, the most of its 64 years of existence. People are living longer, many with long-term conditions, and the cost of treatments continues to rise. Also, there is too much variation in the quality of and access to services. Change is, therefore, needed.
The Act puts clinicians at the heart of making decisions about how services need to change. Working with, and on behalf of their patients, GPs can make sure the NHS rises to these challenges.
With residents, doctors and council working together, the NHS will continue to help Hillingdon people stay healthy and provide excellent services when and where they are needed.