CCGs can solve GP workforce crisis, says NHS chief executive

NHS England will outline plans to hand primary care commissioning powers to CCGs tomorrow, its new chief executive has told MPs.

Simon Stevens: CCG role to expand
Simon Stevens: CCG role to expand

Appearing before the House of Commons health select committee Simon Stevens said handing CCGs a greater role in primary care spending decisions would help solve the general practice workforce crisis.

Mr Simons was quizzed by the committee on the work of NHS England for the first time since he took up the position at the beginning of this month.

Asked about the new structures of the NHS Mr Stevens said GPs he spoke to across the country had been generally ‘more enthusiastic about CCGs than they were about primary care trusts’. 

'I think there is a sense there is a possibility to really drive change in a way that wasn't there before,' he added.

Responsibility key to CCG success

CCGs would probably do well when they have more responsibility for primary care, he said.

In his first few weeks in the job, Mr Stevens said his focus was on changes to the commissioning system to overcome the ‘three-way split’ in commissioning of primary, acute and specialist services and develop a ‘population focus’.

Former GP Sarah Wollaston MP (Con, Totnes) asked the new NHS chief executive what could be done to resolve the general practice workforce crisis.

Mr Stevens, who was previously group executive vice president of US private health giant UnitedHealth Group, said GPs were ‘working incredibly hard and are under pressure’, and said there were questions over the balance of recruitment of primary and secondary care doctors.

‘One of the answers,' he added, ‘is to enable CCGs to have more impact over the decisions that are made about spending in primary care; not just GP services, but primary care services.’

Mr Stevens said he would be setting out outline plans for CCG co-commissioning on Thursday.

NHS England confirmed plans for joint commissioning of primary care in its response to the Call to Action consultation published last month.

Pool resources to integrate care

Joint commissioning with CCGs, the report said, will allow pooled resources and better commissioning decisions, better links between in- and out-of-hours services, and support better health service integration.

Co-commissioning would ‘allow a more cohesive approach to incentives for general practice and other local health organisations, so that providers are held to account for – and rewarded for – similar outcomes, e.g. for population health’, the report says.

A national framework for joint commissioning is due to be published in September.

GP leaders have expressed concern about CCG commissioning or contracting general practice because of the potential for conflict of interest.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash told GP in February she opposed CCGs commissioning or decommissioning GP contracts because of the potential conflict of interest.

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