GP leaders call for safeguards over CCG conflicts of interest

GP leaders have called for stronger safeguards against conflicts of interest in clinical commissioning after an investigation revealed more than a third of GPs on CCG boards have links to private providers.

Dr Buckman: GPs with financial interests in private providers should 'seriously consider' their role in CCG
Dr Buckman: GPs with financial interests in private providers should 'seriously consider' their role in CCG

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said greater clinician involvement in commissioning 'must not come at the expense of the trust of patients'.

The BMJ investigation of 176 CCGs found 426 of the 1,179 GPs in executive positions had a financial interest in private providers beyond their own GP practice. 

Services offered by these private providers included diagnostics, minor surgery, GP out-of-hours and pharmacy. These may be providers from which CCGs commission services.

Dr Buckman said measures are needed to improve confidence that commissioning decisions are being made to benefit patients.

‘While the majority of GPs have no involvement in private companies, we have long called for stronger safeguards against possible conflicts of interest in the new commissioning process,’ he said.

‘In our view, GPs who are directors of, or who have significant financial interests in, companies who might be awarded contracts to provide services should seriously consider their membership of CCG governing bodies. Alternatively, they should consider their position within provider companies.

‘We support the principle of greater clinician involvement in commissioning, but it must not come at the expense of the trust of patients.’

The NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) will issue statutory guidance 'shortly' on managing conflicts of interest in England’s 211 CCGs, which are due to replace PCTs in less than three weeks.

An NHSCB spokeswoman said: ‘CCGs are under clear duties to ensure that they manage any potential conflicts of interest in ways that preserve the integrity of their decision-making processes. This is why it is so vital that everyone working for a CCG or serving on its governing body declares any interests they have.

‘This allows the CCG to put arrangements in place to ensure that those individuals are not involved in any decisions that would give rise to a conflict.’

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