GPs quiz Lansley as NHS listening exercise begins

GPs challenged health secretary Andrew Lansley to involve a wider range of health professionals in commissioning at a Health Bill 'listening exercise' event.

Andrew Lansley visits the London listening event last week
Andrew Lansley visits the London listening event last week

Mr Lansley appeared relaxed as he discussed his NHS reforms with around 30 GPs, consultants, patient representatives and nurses at the South Westminster Centre for Health, in London last week.

The need to involve secondary care clinicians and nurses in commissioning dominated discussions at the meeting, one of around 120 listening events the DoH plans to stage.

None of the anger displayed at events such as the BMA special representative meeting earlier this year, or the recent Royal College of Nursing congress that saw a vote of no confidence in the health secretary, was in evidence.

But Mr Lansley was urged to provide more information on the pause in the Health Bill. GPs raised concerns about being 'force fitted' into consortia with limited funding. Concerns were aired that hospital consultants and nurse specialists had been sidelined.

One GP told Mr Lansley: 'The good thing about what's happening now is clinicians in the community are being empowered. But I think there is a need for clinicians in hospitals to be empowered.'

Mr Lansley told the meeting: 'What we might aim to do is make clear that the design of commissioning will be done on a multi-professional basis. And then it's the commissioning consortia boards' job to put the contract alongside that.'

Mr Lansley said the listening exercise would continue until the end of May and the government would come back with legislation 'later on in June'.

He said: 'Some things are already quite clear: the theme of clinical commissioning being something that must be multidisciplinary and the idea that competition is a means to an end, not an end in itself.'

One member of the group warned Mr Lansley against trying to 'force fit' GPs into 'unnatural' consortia. But Mr Lansley said the assumption that consortia must fit local authority boundaries to link up with social care was a 'bureaucratic mindset'.

'My approach was to let practices come together in whatever shape makes best sense,' he said.

Meanwhile, one GP asked Mr Lansley for assurances that budget allocations would not leave consortia with a 'significant deficit from day one'.

Mr Lansley said: 'The resource allocation to consortia ... should reflect their ability to provide equivalent services wherever they are across the country to patients.

'The relative burden of disease in an area and the relative cost of provision of services should be reflected in how much each consortia gets.'

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