Published: December 18, 2012
Campaigners hand petition signed by 2,669 people to health boss

Campaigners from Burnham-On-Sea and across Somerset have presented a petition with 2,669 signatures to the Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Board to air their concerns about the privatisation of NHS services in the county.

Dr David Rooke, the Chairman of the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group - the organisation which is to take over from Somerset Primary Care Trust when it is abolished in April 2013 - received the petition from the group, which are called 38 Degrees, and includes Gaynor Brown from The Care Centre in Burnham-On-Sea's College Street.

The petition was aimed at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and stated: "Our NHS is precious, and we're relying on you to protect it. Please do all you can to stop local health services being broken up or taken over by irresponsible private companies."

"Protect local NHS services and consult patients properly before making changes, spend money wisely and don’t do deals with irresponsible private companies, and adopt policies and a constitution which reflect these values."

As well as receiving the petition, Dr Rooke took questions from the audience of around 25 people, which included several from Burnham.

They expressed concern that a future CCG might commission more health services from the private sector and this might not represent value for money and could also change the NHS as they know it.

Dr Rooke said he has always given encouragement to patients, carers and the public to use the Internet and email to better share their views and experiences about local health services. He also stressed to the members of 38 Degrees that they might make their voice more effectively heard by joining with existing patient representative organisations in the community, like Somerset's Local Involvement Network, which will soon be known as Healthwatch by April 2013.

At the meeting, members of 38 Degrees asked Dr Rooke what his attitude was to commissioning services from private sector companies.

He explained that all Clinical Commissioning Groups had to comply with national and European laws on competitive tendering of services. This means they cannot discriminate against the private sector bidding for NHS funded services.

He also explained that at times, there is not a clear division between private sector, the voluntary (not for profit) sector and the existing NHS service providers, like hospital Trusts.

Partnerships of all three sectors might be formed to bid to provide an NHS funded service. However, Dr Rooke was clear that the quality of any commissioned health service was the primary commissioning objective and not the lowest cost. He also stressed that in Somerset the goal was to fully integrate health services so they worked in close and affective collaborating for the benefit of patients.

Dr Rooke said: "What Somerset CCG is striving for is high quality integrated health services. I often hear people talking of the private sector cherry picking services and we are not in favour of that."

"For instance, the renal dialysis service in Somerset have been run by a private company for several years now and I believe it is a very high quality service. But that is an integrated service and integrates well with kidney unit in Exeter and the one in Bristol."

"There are many good examples of high quality private sector health service provision in Somerset, but I am not in favour of private sector companies cherry picking services with the effect that it destabilises our existing NHS services."

"We want to see integrated care and closer to home. If we are going out to commission we would be looking to deliver a whole service not just asking a private company to deliver the easy parts of it."


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