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Northumberland and North Tyneside – patchy progress

Reinvigoration is what's needed for PBC in Northumberland and North Tyneside, where progress has been patchy.

Reinvigoration is what's needed for PBC in Northumberland and North Tyneside, where progress has been patchy.



PBC north of the Tyne is ‘a bit patchy', says Dr Stephen Blair, chair of the PEC across the three PCTs of Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle (they share one management structure, including one chief executive).

Some areas are much further ahead than others, he explains. There is a North of Tyne PBC forum covering the whole area, and each trust has its own PBC group. Then there are seven PBC clusters in Northumberland, four in North Tyneside and three in Newcastle.

There's a real need to ‘reinvigorate' PBC, says Dr Blair. ‘There is lots of enthusiasm, but we need to get going.'

A handful of schemes are up and running, including redesigns of pathways for endoscopy and iron deficiency anaemia referrals, and GPs are working closely with secondary care colleagues, he reports. But the projects haven't run for a whole year yet so there are no results to share.

Practices in the county expect PBC to get a real boost from the appointment of a new director at the North of Tyne PCTs.

LMC secretary Dr Jane Lothian said: ‘Until now PBC has not worked very well but in the past three months we've had a new project manager at associate director level in the primary care organisation. It is the process that has been the issue – now we have someone facilitating processes and who can approve projects.'

The seven PBC groups in the county are negotiating a LES for commissioning and hope this will encourage clinicians to engage with PBC.

Relations between the PCT and GPs are good, Dr Lothian insists, but there has been strain caused by cuts in practice PMS budgets over the past year. Northumberland Care Trust was in ‘financial deep water' and slashed budgets by 10% across the board – and for 2009/10 some practices face a cut of up to 12% compared with three years ago.

‘There are lots of very resigned, tired GPs – but we still believe there is an awful lot of good work going on,' says Dr Lothian.

Northumberland and North Tyneside: handful of schemes up and running Northumberland and North Tyneside: handful of schemes up and running

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