The NHS reforms and patients…and EU research shake-up?

Science fear not.  Those of you disappointed that the EU summit on 4th Feb only got round to the subject of ‘innovation’ at a late hour and to little discussion should take heart from the fact that patients have been used to being at the end of a conference/meeting agenda etc for most of the last century…

But perhaps not today…No doubt you will have noticed that eight charities had a letter published in The Times in what the BBC called the opening of a new front against the NHS reforms as embodied in the Health and Social Care Bill.  They express concern that the reforms will dilute patient involvement in the NHS.  Six of the charities are AMRC members.  The other two include the increasingly impressive umbrella body, National Voices (who also publish a copy of the letter), and the mental health charity, Rethink.

Meanwhile the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has written an article in The Guardian claiming that growing numbers of people are backing his reforms.  Game on as they say.

It is interesting how, in little more than a decade, we have gone from ‘patient choice’ and ideas around a patient-led health service (which served its purpose well in confronting entrenched attitudes) to talk of a health system which is ‘clinician-led.’  Or, more accurately, GP-led.   My members and other charities are right to warn about the degree to which patients are at risk of being distanced from GPs and health services under the plans for GP consortia. 

But back to that EU story.  The EU Commissioner for research, Márie Geoghegan-Quinn, was at the Royal Society yesterday speaking about future plans for EU research including a ‘clean-break’ from the Framework programme and confirming that an EU Chief Scientist Appointment would be made this year.  The green paper setting all this out is published tomorrow although whether Nature’s call for greater clarity is heeded remains to be seen.

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