GP anger at being forced into consortia

Two thirds of GPs oppose DoH plans to force practices to join commissioning consortia, and almost all say the profession should have been consulted in advance, a GP survey reveals.

Dr McCarron-Nash: 'There is more detail to come. What we end up with could be very different from what we are reading now' (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr McCarron-Nash: 'There is more detail to come. What we end up with could be very different from what we are reading now' (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

Seventy per cent of GPs felt the DoH was simply trying to 'pass the buck' by handing them a commissioning role.

The White Paper Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS confirmed that all GP practices must sign up to a commissioning consortium by 2012.

By 2013 both SHAs and PCTs will be abolished and GP consortia will have full financial control of up to £80 billion in commissioning funds.

In GP's survey of 349 GPs and practice staff, 63 per cent of GPs said participation in commissioning should not be compulsory.

But 38 per cent support taking over commissioning from PCTs and 49 per cent are already in a consortium. Almost all GPs (94 per cent) felt they should have been consulted before it was announced they would be responsible for commissioning.

One Manchester GP wrote: 'Six NHS reorganisations in 20 years, and none were piloted or discussed properly.'

Respondents to the GP survey reported a wide range of concerns. One partner from Lancashire said the DoH had been 'influenced by a small, high profile group of GPs, who have been clamouring for budgets but do not represent the majority of the profession'.

Another partner feared 'being forced to join a consortium with practices I do not want to be intimately linked to'.

Others addressed the effect the plans may have on patient care. 'If it fails, it will be GPs' fault, creating a tension with patients', said one salaried GP from west London.

In this issue of GP, DoH primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome writes that GPs' personal income will not be at risk if consortia fail. The GPC has received similar assurances.

The DoH is expected to publish a consultation on the commissioning plans shortly.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash urged GPs to keep an open mind. 'There is more detail to come. What we end up with could be very different from what we are reading now,' she said.

There were no plans to make all GPs move to commissioning or managerial roles, she said.

'I don't think swathes of GPs will be leaving practices to commission.'

The White Paper also confirms that the DoH will abolish practice boundaries, despite GP opposition - 75 per cent of respondents to the GP survey did not support the move.

White Paper Timeline

Autumn 2010: Health Bill introduced in parliament.

April 2011: NHS Commissioning Board established.

2011/12: GP consortia established in shadow form.

2012: All practices required to be part of a GP consortium.

2012: Practice boundaries abolished.

Autumn 2012: NHS Board makes allocations for 2013/14 direct to consortia.

April 2013: PCTs abolished and GP consortia take on full financial control of budgets.

 Click here to view health White Paper 2010 news and analysis

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