Funding variation puts consortia at risk

Huge variation in funding for emerging consortia is putting GP-led commissioning at risk in some parts of England, GP leaders have warned.

Dr Aswani: funding for consortia is complex but must come through (Photograph: M Case Green)
Dr Aswani: funding for consortia is complex but must come through (Photograph: M Case Green)

An investigation by GP reveals funding set aside for 2010/11 and 2011/12 by PCTs varies wildly from nothing at all to millions of pounds.

But health minister Simon Burns, responding to a parliamentary question last week said the DoH has 'no plans to monitor expenditure centrally on the GP consortia pathfinder programme'.

Data obtained from 98 PCTs reveals nearly a fifth (17 per cent) set aside no funding at all for the development of GP consortia in 2010/11 and have yet to calculate how much they will spend in 2011/12.

Some PCTs have simply continued to fund existing practice-based commissioning (PBC) groups, failing to provide any evidence of funding for emerging consortia.

Meanwhile many of the remaining PCTs provided funding running to six or even seven figures, funding GP backfill and assigning managers to individual consortia. NHS Leicester City and Leicestershire County, for example spent £11.5 million developing consortia in 2010/11.

The DoH has announced consortia will receive £2 per patient to fund GP backfill on top of PBC funding, but many GPs have yet to receive any funds.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said consortia were 'developing in the dark', and the variation in funding was a result of 'policy being implemented before it has been defined'.

'We still haven't seen what consortia's full roles and responsibilities will be. It is impossible to know what level of funding they should have.

'We have a highly variable arrangement in different PCTs. We need clarity so that consortia can be given their legitimate resources and not be at the whim of their PCT.'

Dr Nagpaul warned that PBC had failed because 'GPs were expected to do it on a shoe-string'.

Dr Ken Aswani, leading the Waltham Forest Federated GP Consortium in London, said his consortium's funding was still to be finalised but it was a complex process.

'The problem is if you organise it centrally then it is prescribed and inflexible, but if it is left to local decisions there is variation.

'It's not easy to pinpoint how much different consortia will need. It is important we do get the funding through. But it's still early days.'

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