Party Conferences attract the faithful, the committed and a few with wild staring eyes. It also attracts axe-grinders, lobby-ists and those with too much annual leave.
If you are none of the above you can watch LaLa live here this afternoon. If that's not for you it is worth half a packet of Hobnobs and a bucket of builder's to watch Andrew Neil interviewing LaLa.
However, back in the real world, of more immediacy, have a look at this. Can it be true? It is supposedly a letter from the Haxby Group Practice in Wigginton to the patients, of what I deduce to be their subsidiary practice, the New Earswick Surgery in York, about ten minutes away by car.
They appear to be part of HBG Ltd who describe themselves here (Page 3):
"HBG Ltd are a company that is wholly owned and run by the Partners of Haxby Group Practice in York. Committed to delivering high quality patient-focused care as a general practice, the company was formed to enable us to adapt to recent changes implemented by the Government and with the purpose of providing new and innovative ways to bring General Practice to the people that need it."
........as far as I know no changes have been implemented - they await Parliamentary approval, don't they? Or have I missed something?
Anyway, you will see the letter has been sent to patients. It says:
"......we are holding your details on a list of patients who require a minor surgical procedure that is no longer paid for by the NHS........ as a result I am writing to make you aware of the options...."
'Options' is actually one option - go private.
It goes on to list three private clinics, plus themselves, who can carry out the treatments. Haxby's helpfully enclose their price list.
I have a number of questions that some bright spark might like to answer. Here are the first three:
- 'Holding your details' implies to me there is a list. The list must have been compiled by someone with access to patients' medical records. Who did this and is this in breach of the data protection palaver, confidentiality and all the rest of it?
- Have the patients' given permission for anyone to view their confidential records and use them for commercial purposes? I think it might be called 'permission based marketing'.
- As I understand it, it is not permitted for GPs to offer private services to patients on their list. I deduce from the web-site and the letter that Earswick is part of Haxby and they are a component of HBG Ltd - does this rule apply?
The letter gives the impression that this diminution in service is universal "...the procedure is no longer paid for by the NHS". Maybe not in the YO32 postcode but elsewhere it might be. Is that misleading?
You and I know this is based on a decision by the local PCT. If the Bill makes it into law it will be GPs who will make the decision about who gets what, not the PCTs.
Here is what the DH Guidance says on the Duties of Consortia, March 2011:
"To commission healthcare to the extent the consortium considers necessary to meet the reasonable requirements of patients registered with the GP practices who are members of the consortium."
Note the bit that says; 'the extent to which the consortium considers necessary'.
Final question; whatever Haxby and friends are or are not doing it does highlight the potential for Consortia to decide this of that service is un-fundable, make a list of the patients effected and drop them a note offering the service for a few quid? Here's what Prof Chris Newdick, the UK's leading academic health lawyer, makes of it.
Perhaps just one more question; Who voted for it?
The NHS gets Lovelier and Jubblier but I bet you won't hear about it at the Tory Party conference! Unless you are there and mention it!