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DOCS IN FAVOUR OF JOINT VENTURE; Town GPs say they will benefit from richer neighbour.

Byline: Warren Manger

DOCTORS in Rugby believe the town will benefit from joining forces with Coventry when they take control of NHS budgets next year.

Groups of GPs will decide what services patients in their area need and who should run them.

One group will cover both Coventry and Rugby, prompting fears that doctors will struggle to juggle the differing needs of the two areas. However, a senior Rugby GP told a Warwickshire health watchdog the merger could mean the town has more money to spend on patients.

Responding to concerns raised by county councillors, Dr Charlotte Gath said: "If anything we are likely to be beneficiaries in Rugby.

"Coventry has always had a lot more money, so I think we are going to do better."

The primary care trusts are being abolished and replaced with clinical commissioning groups made up of GPs, who will take control of NHS budgets in April next year.

Doctors have divided into three groups one for north Warwickshire, one in the south of the county and one covering Coventry and Rugby.

The last is the most controversial as it straddles two councils with separate public health priorities and social services departments.

Doctors believe the cross boundary merger will save millions of pounds by cutting management costs and securing a better value contract with the NHS trust that runs University Hospital and Rugby St Cross.

Dr Gath told the health scrutiny board at Warwickshire County Council that GPs were confident the new arrangement would work.

She said: "Our patients are Rugby patients and we will continue to work for them."

Many key figures are not convinced the proposals will work.

Coun Bob Stevens, cabinet members for health at the county council, said: "Personally I have my doubts. "I think there will be a conflict of interests between Rugby and Coventry. We will have to wait and see."

Meanwhile scrutiny board member Coun Penny Bould said the new larger commissioning group was at odds with the aims of the NHS bill, which pledged to make health services more responsive to local needs.

Concerns have already been raised in Coventry that resources could be diverted to Rugby, making it harder to meet the needs of city patients.

Dr Gath's comments to the county council have fuelled the fears.

Coun David Welsh, chair of Coventry's health scrutiny board, said he would be concerned if that was how GPs in Rugby were thinking.

He said: "I think joint working could bring benefits for patients, but I have been very clear that I think Coventry money should be spent in Coventry on Coventry patients."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 25, 2012
Words:434
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