IMPROVING end of life care, tackling inequalities in chronic disease and improving older people’s services are the main priorities for Cambridgeshire health services.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Group (CCG), which took over from Primary Care Trusts at the end of March, has set its priorities for commissioning health services for its population of 860,000.

The group, which has an £850million budget, is led by eight local commissioning groups (LCG), including two for Huntingdonshire, and will set about shaking up some areas of the county's healthcare through a range of initiatives.

To improve older people's services, the group has commissioned pilot schemes such as The Firm in Peterborough. This is a dedicated team which treats patients in their own homes, helping to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. Treatment can be for up to five days and deal with complaints such as chest infections.

The group also has a special ambulance that attends elderly people who have suffered falls.

It has been so successful that another vehicle is to be ordered, said Geraldine Linehan, vice chairman of the CCG.

The CCG has highlighted inequalities in the care of patients with chronic heart disease - the focus will start on Wisbech and Peterborough as well as others areas in the 20 per cent most deprived places in the county.

Enabling patients to die in their preferred place has also been set as a priority.

In Huntingdonshire around 75 per cent of patients wish to die at home, but 45 per cent spend their last days in hospital.

Dr David Roberts, GP at Great Staughton surgery and lead for Hunts LCG, said: "In Huntingdonshire we have subscribed to the group's priorities as they are ours as well.

"For end-of-life care in Huntingdonshire, we don't do very badly, but we can still do better. In terms of heart disease inequality there are certain deprived areas that we need to address, like Oxmoor."

The CCG is also responsible for commissioning mental health services.

Dr Roberts added: "With the Acer Ward closed, we worked hard to beef up psychiatric care in the community. We now have a referral pathway scheme in Huntingdonshire that we are hoping will result in better care."

INFORMATION: The change to GP commissioning also included the setting up of a Patient Congress for Huntingdonshire open to any patient registered at a doctors' surgery in the district. It feeds ideas for healthcare to the CCG.