British parliament is currently debating the plans of England’s National Health Service (NHS) to transfer more healthcare management responsibilities from national specialized services to local commissioners. However, the debate is generating a major discussion in UK healthcare circles about the risks that could come from trusting the specialized care of chronic and severe conditions such as cystic fibrosis (CF) to local services. The UK’s Cystic Fibrosis Trust recently commented on Parliament’s debate of the issue that took place last week in Westminster.
The proposed plans are part of a series of reforms that are being undertaken by NHS England, specifically about the commissioning of specialized services stated in British law in the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. Currently, the UK medical services ensure national standards of care, as well as a national body of commissioners responsible for supervising both its equity and accountability.
Among the main opposition to the alterations expressed in the debate was Labour Party MP Kerry McCarthy, who, according to a CF Trust news release, expressed his concern for the CF community in particular in the event that the new proposal is passed. McCarthy and the CF community is mainly concerned that local commissioners would use the additional responsibility to reduce the investment into specialized care in order to redirect funding to other local priorities.
“I am glad to be able to speak in today’s debate on behalf of the CF community. It is of great concern that NHS England risks undermining the progress towards equity, excellence and clear accountability in the delivery of specialized services for people with CF,”said Kerry McCarthy addressing health minister Norman Lamb. “The speed of change and lack of detail from NHS England are also troubling. I hope the Minister will consider the benefits of specialist CF centers and listen to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s call for mandatory national service standards to be retained.”
In response to this, health minister Norman Lamb acknowledged the arguments laid out by McCarthy on behalf of the CF community and noted that he would address them later on in detail. In addition, the minister also highlighted that the Trust was “an amazing patient organization that does incredibly important work,” and that it was also his wish to preserve equity in the specialized services delivery. “We do not plan a return to postcode lotteries in specialized services,” he added.
“While we are concerned that co-commissioning could undermine the progress made towards delivering consistent levels of care across the UK, we continue to work hard to improve standards of care,” stated the parliamentary officer at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Darren O’Keefe, about the debate. “This includes working with partners to explore new models of care and ways to drive quality improvements.”
Previously, the Chief Executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust had already written a letter to the NHS England‘s National Director for Commissioning Operations expressing the organization’s opinion regarding the alterations, seeking to ensure that budget responsibility and delivery of CF services were not shifted to local commissioners. “People with cystic fibrosis should not be subjected, yet again, to uncertainty in relation to the care they receive. National commissioning is beginning to bring forward the advances in quality and equity of access that we have long campaigned to see,” wrote Ed Owen, last November. “We urge NHS England to confirm that cystic fibrosis services will continue to be nationally commissioned, directed and accountable.”