General practice split over consortia holding contracts

GP leaders are split over whether consortia should hold GP contracts, amid fears it will lead to in-fighting among the profession.

Dr Vautrey: necessary structures (Photograph: MCG)
Dr Vautrey: necessary structures (Photograph: MCG)

Both the NHS Confederation and the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) have now called for GP consortia to be handed control of their member practices' contracts.

But NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said consortia holding GP contracts 'is precisely what we don't want'.

The NHS Alliance's response to the White Paper calls for consortia to be 'collectives in the true sense of the word' and not 'local enforcers'.

'If practices do find themselves excluded, or having their licences revoked, we don't want that to be GP leaders doing that. Even worse, GPs bringing out old grievances against each other,' he said.

The White Paper proposed that GP contracts would be held by the National Commissioning Board, not consortia, to avoid conflicts of interest.

But NAPC chairman Dr Johnny Marshall will warn the DoH that the success of the White Paper depends on GPs being able to commission primary care and manage GP contracts. 'Under the current proposals GPs will be able to redesign all of the NHS except primary care. The quality of primary care is absolutely critical to success in commissioning.

'We are struggling to think how it will be workable for the NHS Commissioning Board to handle GP contracts without being a much bigger organisation,' he said.

GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey did not rule out GPC support for the idea. 'There is potential for a consortium approaching the size of a PCT to manage without a problem if they set up the necessary structures,' he said.

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