NHS reforms “great opportunity for North Yorkshire” says health campaigner

North Yorkshire County Council chair Jim Clark.

A North Yorkshire health campaigner has welcomed proposals to overhaul the NHS, saying they give hope for much improved and more localised services.

North Yorkshire County Council chairman Councillor Jim Clark said competition-focused reforms of the NHS in 2013 had plunged the area into a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

The former health service accountant said moves outlined in a white paper unveiled this week to tackle bureaucracy and encourage health services from hospitals to GP surgeries and social care to work more closely could only benefit the county.

Cllr Clark is among a number of campaigners, including GPs, who have heralded the Government’s intended change in focus to “the health of the population, not just the health of patients”.

Some North Yorkshire health service insiders say the proposed changes will enable the NHS to better cope with the county’s high proportion of elderly residents and increasing number of people with complex health conditions.

Campaigners said they hoped the reforms would set straight the integrated care systems around which regional NHS networks are based, describing them as “baffling”.

The care system that covers most of North Yorkshire is based in Hull, while Craven district is in the West Yorkshire and Harrogate system, but despite its title that system does not include Harrogate. To complicate matters further, a lot of people in the north of the county use the Friarage general hospital in Northallerton, run by the South Tees trust, which is in a Durham-based integrated care system.

Cllr Clark said: “The great strength we have is in the people who staff our health service, but delivering services as it is structured at the moment needs considerable improvement.

“North Yorkshire and other parts of Yorkshire have suffered more than other parts of the country as a result of these changes and this is a great opportunity for us to put things right.”

Highlighting the issues the Cameron Government reforms had exacerbated, Cllr Clark recalled how in 2013 clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts had been left unable to agree an action plan to reduce NHS spending in the county, leading health campaigner Cllr John Blackie to illustrate his frustration by ripping up an accountants’ report in front of the media.

Cllr Clark said: “Getting rid of the single market will be very good because the NHS works where it cooperates rather than competes. We saw that when Jeremy Hunt tried to close down services in Leeds for children’s heart surgery and other services.

“We have always been under-funded and had the worst performing primary care trust in the country under the old system. In 2012 I was optimistic that whatever system we got would be better than what we had, but it turned out to be worse.”