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The way healthcare is provided in Havering is undergoing major changes. From April, a group of GPs will commission services, while Havering Council will gain a new responsibility for overseeing public health.

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Council involvement in health care

In measures described by the government as “increasing democratic legitimacy” councils will be involved in healthcare in the following ways:

-They will gain responsibility for overseeing public health in addition to social care.

-Councillors will sit on a health and wellbeing board with CCGs and directors of services.

-Local Healthwatch organisations, to scrutinise the health service, will be set up by councils, but independent of them.

The Recorder spoke to two of the new key people in the borough’s health service this week.

“It’s a bit like the countdown to the millennium, nothing dramatic is going to happen on the day of the switchover, but what I do hope is that there will be better care in the long term because it is going to be clinician-led instead of being run by managers.”

That’s the view of Dr Atul Aggarwal, the head of Havering’s new clinical commissioning group (CCG), who told the Recorder that the new measures being introduced were an “inevitable” result of years of change in the NHS.

He will be leading a group of seven GPs who will manage a local budget and commission health services in Havering.

Dr Atul AggarwalDr Atul Aggarwal

The CCG will take the place of the Primary Care Trust (PCT), and will be responsible for much local health provision – including things like the future of St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch.

Critics have said that the move will see doctors become managers instead of focusing on patient care.

But Dr Aggarwal, who has worked at the Maylands Surgery in Upper Rainham Road, Hornchurch, for 20 years stresses that most GPs won’t have a changed role, but that people who know most about patients’ needs will be making their decisions.

He added: “I still do clinical work and so do my colleagues on the CCG. I have no intention of becoming a manager.”

Despite Havering needing to make almost £100m of cuts, chief executive Cheryl Coppell believes that the council’s budget will actually benefit from the new public health responsibilities.

She said: “We actually think this will make money go further, because we can be called in at the point of crisis.

“We can help people be cared for in their homes rather than going in to a route of care.”

One new measure which is being planned is a new hotline, which will help people access the right kind of care so – whether it’s provided by the council or the NHS.

Ms Coppell said: “We want to create a lot more choices for people if they feel unwell in the middle of the night we might have someone to assess their situation, stay with them over night, have a look at their home and see if they need any additional help.”

She cited the example of preventing people being stuck in a cycle of visits to hospital – which can actually be worse for their needs.

She is enthusiastic about the future, adding: “We’ve done an enormous amount of work particularly with the CCG, planning together and it’s actually the best planning work I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

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