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At the heart of general practice since 1960

A multimillion-pound failure

Community matrons were supposed to be the saviours of the NHS, destined to save huge sums by helping GPs keep the frail elderly away from expensive hospital care. This week, the final evaluation of Evercare – the prototype matrons scheme – spectacularly dashed those hopes. Matrons, it turns out, will have absolutely no effect on hospital admissions, bed usage or indeed mortality.

The report is the culmination

of a rising tide of scepticism that has threatened to submerge the scheme ever since its launch.

Naturally, the policymakers responsible are now turning their focus to the softer benefits of matrons – improved integration of services and increased patient satisfaction. But these can never

put more than a cosmetic gloss on what has been a comprehensive, multimillion-pound failure.

Not a scrap of evidence

The failure of course does not belong to the pilots themselves, which tested a valid hypothesis only to find it flawed. The failure belongs to the Government, which insisted on ploughing ahead with the rollout – against the advice of GPs and without a scrap of evidence

that it would work. And yes, this is the same Government that is so obsessive about cost-effectiveness and evidence-based medicine.

Nobody knows how much PCTs have spent because nobody has thought to collect the figures, but the meagre benefits certainly don't appear to justify the cost. The Government must now come up with a very good reason why matrons should not be put to bed.

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