Competition fears blocking GP collaboration, GPC warns

The GPC has called for urgent clarification from NHS England and Monitor over competition rules, warning that uncertainty is undermining practices' bids to work together.

Dr Mike Bewick: 'call to action' consultation on future of general practice (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr Mike Bewick: 'call to action' consultation on future of general practice (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

In its response to NHS England’s 'call to action' consultation on the future of general practice, the GPC said many practices were exploring closer collaboration to ease administrative burdens and develop innovative services, but were cautious about falling foul of competition laws.

It said: ‘The risk of being seen as anti-competitive through greater collaboration needs to be urgently addressed. Practices are understandably cautious of falling foul of competition law and need encouragement and support, as well as clear information from Monitor and NHS England where necessary, about the different mechanisms through which they can collaborate within existing rules and regulations.’

The call to action consultation, which closed on Sunday, was launched by NHS England deputy medical director and former GP Dr Mike Bewick in August.

The wide-ranging consultation looks at how general practice can adapt to economic and demographic pressures.

Dr Bewick told GP last week that his consultation was not about centrally imposed reorganisation, but about ‘how we take the pressure off the system’. It was, he said, about pragmatism, not prescription, and would not mean a new health bill or contract changes.

The GPC response calls for general practice to be empowered as the central organisation from which community care is organised and coordinated. It called for greater funding and a bigger workforce for general practice.

Other points raised in the GPC response include:

  • Avoid the use of league tables in primary care data.
  • Reduce workload pressures and micromanagement to allow GPs to innovate and shape change.
  • Remove QOF components that lack clinical evidence, and re-evaluate data collection timescales.
  • GPC should be involved in a proposed concordat to ‘re-affirm and refresh’ the core features of general practice.
  • GP contracts should focus on empowering practices through reduced bureaucracy and adequate funding.
  • The 10-minute consultation is insufficient.
  • GPC supports a return to practice-based community nursing teams.
  • Prioritise investment in existing services over facilitating new market entry.
  • Guidance is required for practices on the use of the NHS standard contract in LES commissioning.
  • Revitalised retainer scheme.
  • Better investment would allow expansion of GP services and increased access.
  • Resources should follow work shifted from hospitals.

NHS England is due to publish a further document in response to the consultation which will feed into the organisation's wider strategy work.

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