Hewitt: Clinicians must drive NHS change

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The health secretary has expressed her determination for clinicians to be at the forefront of driving change in the NHS.

Speaking this morning, Patricia Hewitt said that there is no "national reconfiguration plan" and that medical advancements, rather than political goals, have made changes to the NHS necessary.

Reconfigurations include alterations to where hospitals are located and what services they provide. Clinicians, Ms Hewitt argued, must be part of the changes and help to explain to the public the benefits of care being provided in either local or centralised centres.

"Reconfiguration works only if it is led and driven by clinicians - I urge you as surgeons and clinicians to lead the change," she told the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS).

"My experience is that what the not so good plans have in common is that the clinicians have not been involved."

Reconfiguration has proved controversial, with concerns raised that moving previously locally-provided care to centralised centres will harm patients.

But Ms Hewitt argued: "The changes that are being made are all designed to give the service the tools it that needs to give patients better care and to save more lives."

As well as helping to shape change, the health secretary added that clinicians can help to improve the public's confidence in changes to the NHS.

"There has to be clinical leadership in shaping proposals and explaining to the public but of course there has to be full public consultation," she said. "Indeed we have very extensive processes for public consultation at every stage of a reconfiguration including of course the involvement of local councils."

Mr Bernard Ribeiro, president of the RCS, welcomed the emphasis on clinician involvement and said that they "need to be there at the early stages" of reconfiguration.

A report by Professor Sir Ara Darzi, national advisor on surgery, was also launched today which outlines the need for change as advancements are made in surgery.

"How and where surgery is provided by the NHS must develop to follow the most modern clinical practices," he said. "This means we must localise surgical care where possible and centralise it where necessary."

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