In an earlier report (Dolan & Norton, 1990) we commented upon the potential vulnerability of specialist psychiatric units following the implementation of Working for Patients and the NHS Bill. Specialist units provide a valuable resource, not only in terms of treatment, but as sources of practical training, education, development of new therapies and of research. Many such units previously enjoyed financial protection at the regional health authority level. Downloading financial responsibilities to DHAs or NHS trusts will complicate the issue of funding since contracts will now need to be entered with each relevant DHA or NHS trust. This more cumbersome system is inevitably more costly for a specialist unit to operate. Users of such units (customers and consumers) will find referral problematic since funding must be identified in advance. Difficulty in negotiating the new, more complicated contracting system, may lead to a decline in specialist referrals. This will in turn lead to questioning of how necessary such ‘regional’ or (as in the case of Henderson Hospital) ‘national’ specialities really are. Managers may tend to argue that referral patterns will reflect (eventually) the true needs for treatment of particular client groups.
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