FAMILY doctors in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly took over responsibility for buying almost all local health services in the area on Monday – with a St Ives GP at the head of the group.
The new group, part of a controversial raft of NHS reforms, will for the first time see GPs taking a leading role in commissioning health services.
NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group took over around £700 million of health services from NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, the primary care trust (PCT).
The budget for the new organisation is short of the £900 million-plus that the PCT currently has because some purchasing – for instance for GPs, pharmacists and dentists, will be via a national group.
Covering acute hospital care; mental health and children's care; community services and GP out-of-hours services, the group says it has been authorised to carry out its work with "no conditions".
Chairman Dr Colin Philip, a GP at St Ives' Stennack Surgery, said the changes give clinicians and patients more power to improve services.
He said: "This is an exciting time for the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
"For the first time, clinicians will have the power to make meaningful changes to healthcare services and make the health system work locally in a way that is best for patients.
"We are absolutely committed to improving the quality of services that patients rightly expect. As GPs, we are well placed to reflect our patients' needs and perspectives when planning, structuring and delivering healthcare."
NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group will have control of a £700 million budget, which it will receive from a national body called the NHS Commissioning Board.
NHS Kernow is made up of the area's 69 GP practices and serves a registered population of 554,970 people.
Its governing body, which will be responsible for taking action on behalf of the CCG, comprises 13 people and includes 7 GPs, a registered nurse, a hospital doctor and 2 independent members. They are also supported by senior health managers who have vast experience of the health service.
NHS Kernow covers ten localities, with a GP lead for each. They are: Penwith, South Kerrier and Isles of Scilly; North Kerrier; Coastal Cluster; Newquay; Truro; Mid-Cornwall; North Cornwall and East Cornwall.
While Dr Philip, who lives in Nancledra and has welcomed the move, has warned the local NHS "cannot afford to do everything for everyone".
He said a tight control would have to be kept on finances and that all patients should be involved.
He said: "We have to have discussions about the practicalities of an increasingly difficult financial world the NHS is in."
More can be found at www.kernowccg.nhs.uk. The group is also on Facebook and Twitter.