THE NHS in Buckinghamshire is funded at a level 17 per cent below the UK national average and is third from bottom in terms of pounds per patient.

It has been suggested that nationally the NHS will be underfunded to the extent of £10-15billion over the next five years.

This means there will be less money available, in real terms, to provide health care for patients.

The Buckinghamshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) or NHS Buckinghamshire as it likes to be called, is acting now and wants to reduce access to certain services.

I believe that patients have a right to be involved in the decisions that the Buckinghamshire PCT is making on our behalf. The NHS constitution says that we have rights so let’s use them. The Buckinghamshire PCT hopes to cut how much it spends on our healthcare in hospitals by £8-13million this year (2010/2011). It intends to invest £6million in community services and use the rest to pay off its debt.

The PCT is intending to save the money by: l Reducing the number of people who go to A & E; l Reducing the number of referrals made by GPs to hospital consultants; l Reducing the number of patients who go to outpatient clinics in hospitals; l Not implementing specific service improvements funded by central government such as improvements in dementia services and respite breaks for carers.

(Buckinghamshire PCT Operational Plan 2010/2011) Is this what the patients want?

Are there other ways to save money?

Alternative ideas: n Make sure that Buckinghamshire Hospitals Trust and the other hospitals sort out patients when they are admitted so that they get the right investigations and a diagnosis while they are in the hospital and are then discharged properly back into the community with the appropriate care package in place. This prevents re-admission and further referrals; n Allow consultants and GPs to work together to create patient pathways (including investigations) that work for the benefit of patients and reduce waste; n Sort out staffing levels to make sure there are enough staff employed to cover for holidays, sickness and training at all times and so reduce the use of bank, locum and temporary staff; n Reduce sickness rates amongst staff by improving working conditions; n Improve the use of Information Technology in hospitals; avoid duplication of medical records and prevent missing records so that all information is available when patients are seen; n Find some way of reducing the burden of the PFI contracts that cost tens of millions each year out of NHS funds in Buckinghamshire; n Improve the systems of managing stores and equipment to reduce waste.

If these ideas do not save enough money then the PCT should discuss with the population of Buckinghamshire about what services have to be cut or stopped.

There are already services that are no longer available or are restricted.

Did you know that you cannot get an uncomplicated hernia repaired in Buckinghamshire unless there are exceptional and unusual circumstances?

Bill Russell, Spenser Road, Aylesbury.