It seems that the majority of senior National Health Service staff remain seriously concerned that the Service is not geared up to cope with the new commissioning landscape.
In a survey of 1,100 members of the Guardian's healthcare professionals network, 76% said they felt the NHS is "not ready" and just 8% that it is "ready" to take on its new role from April, when clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be handed the purse strings to design local health services.
Two-thirds reportedly said they believe CCGs are not prepared for the new system, while more than half felt NHS Commissioning Board isn't either, highlighting a persistent lack of confidence in the implementation of the government's radical healthcare reforms.
"I cannot think of a single sector of the NHS that is ready for change. God help the NHS and its patients," the Guardian quoted one respondent as saying, while another noted: "I am in an organisation that is merged into Public Health England [the body set up to improve public health and reduce inequalities nationally]. We know nothing about what is going to happen or even what job we might have or where it will be."
Amid predictions of a looming "disaster", a recurring concern seemed to be whether sufficient manpower was in place to take on the new roles; 53% said they felt CCGs didn't have the staff needed while 44% believed staff at the NHS Commissioning Board aren't "up to the job," the paper said.
Its survey also revealed that more than 40% of senior NHS staff had serious concerns over the delivery of healthcare in their organisations, which they believed was putting patient safety at risk.
Particularly worrying - in light of the recent Francis inquiry, which concluded that a lack of openness within the NHS played a key role in hundreds of patient deaths at the Mid Staffordshire Trust - almost two-thirds of those who had reported the issues did not feel they were dealt with properly, with respondents reportedly describing "a climate of fear and intimidation from management".
Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for the NHS Commissioning Board stressed to PharmaTimes UK News that there has been a significant amount of work over the past 18 months to prepare for the changes, and that all 211 CCGs have now been authorised.
But “whilst we are confident that the new organisations will be ready to discharge their functions, there is lots to do before they are achieving their full potential," he said, and added that while April - and the switch to the new system - is "an important milestone on the journey, it is not the final destination".
"We will all need to keep learning and listening as we go so we build an NHS that is more responsive, more transparent and more compassionate on behalf of patients,” he said.
A spokesperson for NHS Clinical Commissioners also argued that as CCGs have been through a thorough authorisation process, "they have a clear picture of where, if at all, they need to develop and external verification that they are fit to take on their statutory responsibilities".
"We know that the NHS has to confront significant financial challenges in the years ahead," he told PT, but noted that "CCGs have the opportunity to do things differently, build links across health and social care and deliver innovative solutions to help secure the long-term future of the NHS".