Charities help consortia share financial risk

Health secretary Andrew Lansley believes private sector or charity-led 'commissioning support organisations' will help GP consortia share financial risk.

Andrew Lansley: has spoken to charities about supporting commissioners (Photograph: JH Lancy)

Addressing an audience of GPs in Halton, Merseyside, last week Mr Lansley was asked how smaller consortia would be able to cope with financial risk and exceptionally expensive patients.

He said organisations formed from either charities, PCT staff or the independent sector would help consortia across England design services and 'offer to take on the risk' of the associated costs.

'You can say to a commissioning support organisation here is the standard we are looking for, we want you to put a commissioning framework in place, and you can take on that risk,' he said.

'I think you will see lots of organisations from charities, the voluntary sector or people currently working in PCTs - and these organisations will start to offer to take on these risks,' he said.

Mr Lansley said he had talked to charities such as Parkinson's UK, which, in partnership with other groups, has formed Neurological Commissioning Support, which designs neurology services.

Sue Thomas, head of Neurological Commissioning Support, said the group had been working with PCTs for four years.

'As a charity we know what should be in place,' she said. 'The risk is lessened because of the knowledge we have around the country.

'PCTs don't always know how much they are spending on neurological problems. We can map the services people use and find how many people suffer from neurological problems in their area.'

The health secretary would not clarify what would happen if GP consortia overspent, but warned that 'financial ill- discipline' would mean consortia do not receive the 'quality premium' that will be paid to commissioning groups that perform well.

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