This is one of a number of proposals the DoH has changed as a result of its consultation on the White Paper Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS.
In its response to the White Paper consultation the government said its proposal to hand responsibility for maternity services to the NHS Commissioning Board came up against ‘much criticism’ with many respondents arguing that the plans were flawed.
The DoH has now pledged to hand GPs responsibility for commissioning maternity services, although it has outlined that the NHS Commissioning Board will still play a role.
The DoH said: ‘Taking account of all these views, the DoH is persuaded that maternity services need a different approach to reflect their special nature and circumstances.
‘While responsibility for commissioning maternity services should sit with GP consortia, we will expect the Board to give particular focus to promoting quality improvement and extending choice for pregnant women.’
Meanwhile, the DoH said it will give GP consortia a 'stronger role' in supporting the NHS Commissioning Board to drive up quality in primary care.
It said GP consortia will have an explicit duty to support the NHS Commissioning Board in continuously improving the quality of primary medical care services.
It said: 'This will not alter the NHS Commissioning Board’s overarching responsibility for commissioning GP services and holding GP contracts. However, it will mean that consortia will play a systematic role in helping to monitor, benchmark and improve the quality of GP services, including through clinical governance and clinical audit.'
Other areas of change include:
- Significantly strengthen the role of health and wellbeing boards in local authorities
- Introduce an 'early implementers' programme for health and wellbeing boards
- Require all GP consortia to have a published constitution to increase transparency
The DoH has also announced that NHS budget allocations to PCTs will rise by an average of 3% for 2011/12 across England.