New group ready to take over the healthcare reins in Milton Keynes

Dr Nicola Smith - CCG Chairman
Dr Nicola Smith - CCG Chairman
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Healthcare in Milton Keynes is set to change at the end of the month, but bosses insist that patients will feel very little difference in the way they receive treatment.

The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will take over the running of healthcare services in Milton Keynes from the Primary Care Trust (PCT) at the end of the month.

Made up of a board of five local GPs, the CCG will be in charge of improving healthcare all over the city - not just concentrating on the hospital, but all forms of care.

In an exclusive interview with The Citizen, Dr Nicola Smith, chairman of the Milton Keynes CCG, explained the role of the group.

She said: “We have been working in shadow form for about a year now and have been building the organisation. The PCT is now all but gone and we are taking on the role.

“We’re all local GPs. We’ve all been through a selection process and election process to be part of the CCG.

“It’s not a tier of people, management and then GPs, but everyone is joined at the hip.

“It will be hugely beneficial to Milton Keynes. It’s a collaborative approach. We want to keep Milton Keynes the best it possibly can be.

“It’s not just the hospital. We’ll be looking at community services, pharmacies, the local authority, the private care homes – everything involving health and social care.”

Having slowly phased out the role of the PCT during the course of the last 12 months, the CCG will kick into action on Monday April 1.

Dr Smith believes that patients won’t notice any bumps in the road as the CCG takes over full control.

“I don’t think people will notice a huge difference. They’ve still got their GP, still got the hospital, pharmacy and ambulance service.

“There will be treatments that we believe are not priority treatments and we’ll have to make sure people are eligible before we apply for it.

We hope fewer people will need to stay in the hospital. Some people are better off in their own homes or in a community setting. It’s about looking at who needs hospital treatment, and who doesn’t.

“We want to take the pressure off A&E, some people don’t need to be there and we can direct them somewhere else.”

And alleviating the pressure from the already overly worked A&E is something which the CCG has prioritised.

Dr Smith said: “One of the biggest things for me was the urgent care system. We have looked at A&E in the hospital and what we can provide in the community, like the Choose Right campaign. It’s looking at the whole system.

“We want to alleviate the pressure on A&E. We’ve funded a nurse navigator to work the door of A&E to direct people to the urgent care centre or back to GP practices.

“We’ve advised the ambulance service to rather than dispatch everyone to hospital, but to ring up GPs and ask if they can arrange a visit later. This builds the idea that not everyone needs to come to hospital.”

But with the NHS being forced into huge cut-backs, Dr Smith acknowledges that it is getting harder to operate within the tight confines of their budget.

However, she said there was scope to improve the healthcare pathways while making the service more ‘efficient’ along the way.

“The budget is tight,” said Dr Smith. “But the difficultly within the NHS is that we are caring for an ageing population, a population with more significant health problems and trying to achieve better health outcomes with that budget, making it work harder. It’s extremely difficult, especially in Milton Keynes with it’s growing population. That leaves a bit if a deficit that we have to cover every year, and we have to look at how to make that money go further.

“For example, research has found that tennis elbow injections aren’t necessarily the best way of dealing with the condition. In fact, in many cases in the longer term, they are detrimental to the patient’s recovery. But the fact that the injections offer short-term relief means some people think it’s making things better.

“If we can reduce the number of pathways that aren’t making people’s lives better, then it’s a more efficient health service. But it’s a big hurdle to convince people that the injection isn’t making things better, but worse.”

To find out more information on the Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, visit www.miltonkeynesccg.nhs.uk