Camden News - by TOM FOOT Published: 7 August 2008
How the PCT Board might look as Dragon’s Den investors, from left: Chairman John Carrier, Director of Public Health Anthony Kessel, Contracts Chief Liz Wise and Chief Executive Rob Larkman
Could your pitch impress the new PCT ‘Dragons’?
Health chiefs invite ‘anyone’ to submit ideas for share of £500k investment fund
IT is the fearsome television show where celebrity business leaders can dash the dreams of budding entrepreneurs with the dismissive catchphrase: “I’m out!” Now health chiefs are borrowing the premise of the popular BBC series Dragons’ Den by inviting people to pitch ideas to them in a bid to find new ways to tackle Camden’s wide health divides.
Investment of up to £50,000 is up for grabs for every idea that gets off the ground.
But instead of the television “dragons” – whose notorious line-up includes Peter Jones, Duncan Bannatyne and Theo Paphitis – innovators will pitch proposals to a panel of Primary Care Trust (PCT) top brass including director of contracts Liz Wise.
The PCT’s advertisements said: “We are looking to support innovation and entrepreneurial approaches to health, we want our process to reflect that. The best proposals will be asked to pitch their idea to a panel in the style of TV’s Dragon’s Den.”
The PCT insisted this week that the trawl for ideas did not represent a deficiency among their own top brains.
Graham McDougall, the PCT’s assistant director of primary care, said: “We are trying to do something different. We are already doing a number of things to tackle health inequalities. Camden has high levels of smoking, obesity, drug abuse and cardiovascular disease. What we need to do is change people’s lifestyles and we think involving people who we would not have done before may help to do that.”
The Dragon’s Den exercise follows a health inequalities conference called by the Camden PCT in May.
Five Camden wards – Kilburn, Kentish Town, St Pancras and Somers Town, Gospel Oak and Regent’s Park – were targeted in the meeting and it was noted that men living in Hampstead are likely to live 11 years longer than those living in poorer wards.
Health chiefs admit there is plenty of room for improvement, and are prepared to part with at least £500,000 under the scheme – enough for 10 local schemes. The money represents start-up funding that will run for 18 months.
But it has already been dismissed a “gimmicky ploy” by patients, and doctors have said the cash should be spent improving existing services.
Dr Stephen Amiel, chairman of the doctors lobby group Camden London Wide Medical Committees, said: “I’m all for extra money being made available for tackling health inequalities but there are a number of tried and tested projects that the PCT could speed up with better investment. “If I had £50,000 I would invest the money in more nurses and health visitors that could raise awareness about immunisations like the MMR jab. There are real problems of uptake of things like cervical smears, especially in the Bangladeshi community.”
He added: “It is interesting that the funds are available to ‘anyone’. This appears to be another way for the PCT to spread its money into the private sector.”