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Workload shift to be halted

By Alisdair Stirling

New health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to call a halt to the mass shift of workload from hospitals into the community until GPs and patients have been consulted and the clinical evidence assessed.

But the reprieve is likely to be temporary, with Mr Lansley saying he would go even further than the previous government's plans for £20 billion of NHS efficiency savings.

Mr Lansley has surrounded himself with arch critics of polyclinics and of the handling to date of the drive for efficiency savings carried out to date by NHS managers.

New Tory health minister Simon Burns has campaigned against the rollout of Darzi centres, calling them a threat to local GP services, while Liberal Democrat Paul Burstow, also made health minister, has demanded the Government force NHS managers to publish a report by US consultancy McKinsey, used as evidence for the workload shift.

Independent research from trusts in London has now questioned the ability of polysystems to cope.

Mr Lansley said: ‘We are going to stop the closure of hospital services where it is not supported by clinical evidence, where there has not been the public involvement and engagement as necessary and where GPs as local commissioners of services have not been engaged.'

However, he also warned the Conservative-Liberal coalition may ultimately bring in even greater efficiency cuts in NHS spending than the £15-20bn already ordered under the previous Government.

Mr Lansley said the sort of increases in spending seen under the previous government were ‘not sustainable for the future', but that efficiencies would be reinvested to ensure NHS spending rose faster than inflation.

Mr Burns, MP for West Chelmsford, was a member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee from 1999 to 2005 and was shadow minister for health.

Mr Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, has been a member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee since July 2005 and is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Primary Care and Public Health.

Workload shift to be halted