Simon Stevens announced he planned to invite interested CCGs to apply for co-commissioning powers. CCGs would need to show NHS England how they would advance integration, raise standards and cut health inequalities in primary care.
But GP leaders said the announcement showed the fragmented NHS was failling to deliver and NHS England lacked capacity to commission primary care well.
Speaking at the conference of NHS Clinical Commissioners in London on Thursday, Mr Stevens said the proper resourcing of primary care required CCGs to have greater influence over funding.
CCGs will also be given a role in commissioning specialised services under the plans.
Mr Stevens said: ‘If we want to better integrate care outside hospitals, and properly resource primary, community and mental health services - at a time when overall funding is inevitably constrained - we need to make it easier for patients, local communities and local clinicians to exercise more clout over how services are developed.
‘That means giving local CCGs greater influence over the way NHS funding is being invested for their local populations. As well as new models for primary care, we will be taking a hard look at how CCGs can have more impact on NHS England’s specialised commissioning activities.'
He added: ‘Today I am inviting those CCGs that are interested in an expanded role in primary care to come forward and show how new powers would enable them to drive up the quality of care, cut health inequalities in primary care, and help put their local NHS on a sustainable path for the next five years and beyond.’
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the move was a 'predictable' step towards 'recreating PCTs', a sign that NHS England did not have the 'capacity to commission primary care well', and that the fragmented NHS was 'failing to deliver'.
He added: 'The key issue that must be addressed is how CCGs can overcome real or perceived conflicts of interest. It is not in the profession's interest for the next story to appear on the front page of the Daily Mail to be that GP leaders in CCGs are commissioning services for their own practices' financial benefit, but nor do we want CCGs to be paralysed by the fear of competition to avoid investing in general practice.
'These issues, and the matter of ensuring CCGs have the capacity to do the job given [to] them, have to be addressed for co-commissioning to work.'
NHS England will write to CCGs next week inviting expressions of interest. These should be developed by June 20.
Commissioners will have to ensure transparency and good governance and show how they will guard against conflicts of interest.
Proposals will be discussed by the applicant CCG and the NHS England area team, which will make a recommendation for approval by the board of NHS England.
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