GP commissioning to drive up clinical standards and productivity

GP commissioning could play a key role in improving clinical standards and productivity in the NHS, the King's Fund believes.

Dr Vautrey said that commissioning needed to be based on learning from good practice
Dr Vautrey said that commissioning needed to be based on learning from good practice

Ensuring all providers match standards achieved by the best offers the greatest opportunity for boosting productivity in the NHS, the think tank says in a report issued this week. It also says that productivity may increase as a result of patient choice driving competition between providers.

The King's Fund estimates that the NHS will need to save £14bn a year by 2014 to plug the gap between NHS funding and service requirements. This will require ‘productivity improvements’ of up to 4% a year.

The report says that GP commissioning, as proposed in the White Paper, ‘has the potential to make a positive contribution to improving quality and productivity’.

GPC vice-chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said general practice was well known for being very cost effective.

‘I'm sure that is one of the reasons why the current government is intending giving GPs a leading role in commissioning,’ he said. ‘It feels that GPs will not only bring a perspective that is closer to the patients they meet on a daily basis, but also will have cost effectiveness of service redesign clearly in mind.’

Dr Vautrey said that much of the service redesign needed to be based on learning from good practice around the country, ‘not all trying to re-invent the wheel’.

‘It also means doing less in hospital and more clinical work in the community,’ he said. ‘The problem in previous years is that any attempt to make this shift has been difficult because resources have not been freed up to enable this transfer of work.

‘This is one of the key areas that needs to change in the future if GP consortia are to be successful.’

The King's Fund's new estimate of NHS savings is over 30% below the estimate the think tank made last year, when it said £21bn a year would need to be saved. The discrepancy is a result of reduced cost estimates and changed priorities, it said.

The report cites several where savings can be achieved, including: pharmacists taking on some elements of GPs’ role in chronic disease management; increased generic prescribing; and improving asthma care, so that hospital admissions are cut.

 Click here to view health White Paper 2010 news and analysis

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