90% of pathfinder consortia may be too small to manage risk

Nearly 90% of the consortia confirmed as pathfinders cover populations below the GPC's threshold for managing risk.

Dr Vautrey: it is important that there are variation in the size of pathfinder groups

The GPC outlined earlier this year that while consortia size should not be prescribed, consortia covering populations of less than 500,000 would struggle to manage risk.

But of the 52 consortia confirmed as pathfinders, just seven will cover populations of 500,000 or more.

There is also huge variation in the size of the consortia. The largest consortium (Oxfordshire), covers a population of 672,000, around 36 times larger than the smallest consortium (The Red House Group, Hertfordshire), which covers a population of 18,900.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said it was important that there was variation in the size of pathfinder groups. But he was not surprised that the first wave of pathfinders predominantly covers small populations.

‘What we are seeing is emergence of groups based on PBC groups, which are by and large much smaller groups,' he said. 'It’s inevitable that those groups that were already well established put themselves forward as pathfinders. But we could see that it looks different in a year or so.’

Dr Vautrey also said he would be ‘amazed’ if the smaller consortia demonstrated that there were able to operate effectively at that size.

Meanwhile, Ken Spooner, practice manager at Red House Group surgery, said the practice, which has three branches, hopes to build on the work it has done as a solo PBC group.

He said: ‘As a solo PBC Group we have spent the last few years focused on developing services that are responsive to the needs of our patients and in delivering healthcare in the most cost effective manner, insulating ourselves from some of the inefficiencies of central control.

‘Becoming a pathfinder will allow us to develop this philosophy and capitalise on the enormous hard work that is being done by everyone within the practice working as a team to a common goal.’

Meanwhile, Dr John Galuszka, chair of the Oxfordshire consortium said GPs in the area have a ‘real commitment’ to make GP commissioning work.

He said: ‘It is also positive news that we have been approved for the GP consortia pathfinder programme. This means we will be able to progress the development of the one consortium model quicker and with support from colleagues within the PCT.’

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