Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group chairman Dr Howard Stoate answers key questions

PUBLISHED: 17:30 25 April 2013 | UPDATED: 17:30 25 April 2013

Dr Howard Stoate, Bexley CCG chairman

Dr Howard Stoate, Bexley CCG chairman


April 1 brought about significant changes in the NHS that mean hospital, community and mental health services in Bexley are now run by a clinical commissioning group (CCG), led by working GPs.

The group oversees a budget of about £263million and replaces Primary Care Trusts.

The CCG board is made up of 13 voting members, including six elected GPs, a chief nurse, two members of the public and financial managers, who will hold public meetings where residents can ask questions.

Dr Howard Stoate, 59, is a former MP for Dartford and is the chairman of Bexley CCG. He has been a GP for more than 30 years and is a partner at Albion Road surgery in Bexleyheath.

Here, in an interview with Robin Cottle, he answers questions about what the changes will mean.

What are the priorities for Bexley CCG?

Before the CCG was formed we did a detailed analysis of the population so we know which areas need more money than others.

Our elderly population is higher than average in London, so this brings up problems like heart disease, mental health and diabetes.

We also want to be proactive rather than reactive, so we want to work on preventing diseases. This will involve more people going to their GPs if they think they have a problem. We want to raise awareness of patients going undiagnosed.

How will the problems affecting South London Healthcare Trust impact on you?

It is clear that the closure of the A&E and maternity departments at Queen Mary’s Hospital have had a major effect on healthcare in Bexley.

We want people to travel as little as possible, which is why we want to develop the hospital in Sidcup as a healthcare facility for non-emergency care, so people only have to go an A&E department in absolute emergencies.

It’s not ideal to travel to the Princess Royal in Bromley or Darent Valley in Dartford, especially with such an elderly population who might struggle to travel such long distances.

The Sidcup site will have elective surgeries, X-rays, physiotherapy and radiotherapy. This will also help to secure the future of the hospital. We want to reduce hospital admissions.

With GPs deciding the budget, might there be a conflict of interest?

Conflicts of interest are something we try to keep to a minimum.

We can’t remove them completely but there’s a robust process and any GP who might have a conflict of interest when it comes to a particular decision will be removed from the voting process.

All our documents are public and there’s complete transparency.

In terms of GPs handling the money, we won’t have any left over by the end of the year and we’ll try to spend it in as cost-effective way as possible – as if it was our own money.

GPs understand what their patients need and don’t need more than managers.

We understand them better than anyone and have their best interests at heart.

Unfortunately, Bexley has one of the smallest pots in London, but that’s something that’s always been the case and we just have to deal with it.

With GPs becoming more overstretched with their roles in the CCG, might patients face longer waiting times?

Well there are 120 GPs in Bexley and only seven are involved in the Clinical Commissioning Group. I spend three days a week on CCG work (but I was only a part-time GP before taking on this role anyway) and the others spend a day a week on it anyway.

So in short, patients will not be affected by longer waiting times because so little of our collective time is taken up with the CCG. Plus, they are always our number one priority.

n Are you a doctor or patient who has been affected by the changes? Let us know your views, email

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