KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Britain Plans To Decentralize NHS, Tranfer Budget To General Practitioners

British officials are proposing a plan to decentralize the National Health Service, news outlets report.

"The new organization, which the government says will focus on patients, will transfer the bulk of Britain's $160 billion health care budget to general practitioners," The Fiscal Times reports. "In return, regional groups of GPs will be responsible for buying hospital and medical services, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals-presumably at negotiated prices. They become, in effect, overnight medical general contractors, implementing health services to their communities. The plan would result in thousands of layoffs among health care workers, and across the board cuts in everything from hip and cataract surgery to pediatric and maternity services, according to Britain's Sunday Telegraph. The NHS already doles out certain health services, and is likely to increase rationing on common procedures like knee replacements and orthodontic treatment." The measure, which is intended to cut costs and reduce the deficit, "is the basis of a health care bill that will have to be passed by England's legislature" (Leo, 7/25).

The New York Times: The goal of the new plan is "to shift control of England's $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers. The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government's goal to effect $30 billion in 'efficiency savings' in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. … The government has promised that the new plan will not affect patient care and that the health care budget will not be cut. But some experts say those assertions are misleading" (Lyall, 7/24).

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