GPs back health bill plan to empower clinicians - Queen's speech

GP leaders have welcomed plans to create an NHS led by clinical decision-makers, which will be set out in the health bill announced in last week's Queen's speech.

Queen's speech: 'role of doctors strengthened to improve public health' (Photograph: Rex Features)
Queen's speech: 'role of doctors strengthened to improve public health' (Photograph: Rex Features)

The bill will contain plans to establish an independent NHS board to allocate resources, provide commissioning guidance and allow GPs to commission services for patients.

The government said the health bill, which will go before parliament in 18 months, will help it deliver its commitment to reduce bureaucracy.

The bill was revealed at the official state opening of parliament, where the Queen said the role of doctors would be strengthened to improve public health, and action taken to reduce health inequalities.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GPC negotiator, said he welcomed the government's plans, but wanted to know the 'detail behind the headlines'.

'We welcome the rhetoric of giving GPs greater influence and a greater role in commissioning. GPs have always argued for clinicians to determine commissioning decisions locally.

'But the devil is the detail. In particular we would not wish to see practices destabilised through contract renegotiation and we are keen to have dialogue with the government on this.'

King's Fund director of policy Dr Anna Dixon said the government was giving a 'clear signal' that changes are needed to improve general practice.

'If, as expected, this includes transferring budgets to GPs, it will be important to learn from the previous experiences of GP-led commissioning in the UK and other countries to ensure it delivers benefits for patients and efficiency savings across the health system while ensuring accountability for public expenditure,' she said.

Dr Dixon added that the emphasis on improving public health will be a 'key test' for the government.

'Whether or not the coalition government can tackle the economic and social determinants of poor health and reduce health inequalities will be a key test of whether it can work effectively across departmental boundaries - something that eluded its predecessors,' she said.

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