My View, Dr Nick Tupper - Targeting early diagnosis

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On Thursday this week NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, the organisation I chair, will hold its first annual general meeting.

It’s a key milestone, an opportunity to review what we’ve achieved for patients during our first 12 months, and a chance to share our plans and ambitions for the current year.

Clinical commissioning groups like ours are still in their infancy and many readers may still be puzzled as to what our role within the local NHS system is.

We took over from primary care trusts in April 2013 and our task is to commission – plan, organise and pay for – the NHS services that Doncaster’s 300,000 patients need.

Unfortunately the NHS is full of acronyms, so please stick with me as I try to explain what I believe is the key difference between the former PCTs and new CCGs.

Crucially, CCGs are led by practising GPs like me. We divide our days between surgeries and offices, working with NHS managers and using our clinical skills to help make improvements to where and when services are available in Doncaster.

We get to know from a variety of sources which are working well and which need to improve. Patients tell us about their experiences and this often informs discussions we have with the local NHS trusts and other organisations we buy those services from. One important change our CCG has brought to Doncaster is we are now more focused on getting real patient ‘outcomes’ rather than just hitting traditional targets.

An example is our approach to cancer. We now focus on diagnosing cancer as early as possible so we can quickly get Doncaster people into curative treatment rather than simply measuring how long they have been on a waiting list.

Similarly, the current national drive is to see how quickly people can access ‘crisis’ services when they are having severe mental health problems.

Yes, speed is important, but at the CCG we’re keen to ensure services are of consistent high quality, so the people who need to use them can really benefit long-term.

Not waiting too long for treatment is important but only if it improves the patient’s experience and outcomes. Outcomes are the real benefits Doncaster patients can achieve from the changes we are making as we review, modernise and improve services where necessary.

We’re taking an ‘outcomes-based’ approach to all the services we’re currently modernising and improving – cancer, children’s services, continuing healthcare, dementia, mental health, unplanned care and long term conditions. I’ll be talking more about them in future columns.

You’re welcome to come along to our AGM if you’re interested in finding out more. It takes place on Thursday, September 18, at Sovereign House, Heaven’s Walk, Doncaster, DN4 5HZ, from 3.45pm. Call 01302 566042.

* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group