Announcing the new pathfinders, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK ‘can’t afford not to modernise’ the NHS.
'I want one of the great achievements of this Government to be the complete modernisation of our public services,' he said.
The 89 new pathfinder GP consortia add to the 52 pathfinders revealed in December (see our interactive map of pathfinder consortia).
He went on: 'People said there would be no appetite for this. But let me tell you today… far from fearing new commissioning arrangements, over 140 GP-led consortia have now come forward, covering over half the country.’
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘If we want better results for patients and a more efficient NHS, then we must devolve power to general practices.
‘This second group of selected pathfinders is welcome evidence of widespread enthusiasm for taking these ideas forward.’
He added: ‘It is clear that GPs and nurses are ready and willing to take on commissioning responsibilities, the pathfinders to date demonstrate this but most importantly, the changes will enable them to make the decisions that better meet the needs of their local communities and improve outcomes for their patients.’
Mr Cameron’s speech set out the Coalition government’s case for public service modernisation versus retaining the status quo. In it, he defended the pace and depth of the health reforms and said the NHS could not afford to stand still while health outcomes failed to match those of Europe.
He said: ‘Pretending that there is some "easy option" of sticking with the status quo and hoping that a little bit of extra money will smooth over the challenges is a complete fiction.
He added: ‘Put another way: it’s not that we can’t afford to modernise; it’s that we can’t afford not to modernise.’
His speech came just hours after the BMA expressed concerns over the pace of the reforms. Mr Cameron said critics who derided the reforms as privatisation should 'grow up' over the debate. He said: 'The idea that the changes amount to privatisation simply isn't true.'