Labour conference: GP-led commissioning 'not in public interest', says Burnham

GPs should not be in control of NHS commissioning, Labour's shadow health secretary has said.

Burnham: GPs should not run commissioning
Burnham: GPs should not run commissioning

Andy Burnham, speaking at the party’s annual conference in Brighton, said local government should be given a bigger role in commissioning health and social care to bring back accountability.

‘GP commissioners: who are they?,' asked Mr Burnham at a conference fringe event on Tuesday. ‘How are they held accountable if we don’t like what they are doing? And who are NHS England, and how do we hold them accountable?’

‘I don’t mind GP involvement in commissioning,' he added, ‘but I am pretty clear I don’t support GP domination or control of commissioning, because in the end, I don’t think there is enough there to secure the public interest.’

Mr Burnham, outlining his proposals for health and social care integration ahead of his main speech on Wednesday, called for a new ‘social model’ of commissioning, led by health and well-being boards in control of a merged budget.

Under Mr Burnham’s plans, which are yet to be worked out in detail by the party’s policy forum, integration would allow funding to be redirected from acute service into community and social care.

The former health secretary said his model would move beyond the purchaser-provider split, allowing whole-population focused commissioning.

Labour, he added, had let the market ‘too far’ into the health service, but markets promote ‘fragmentation not integration’ and ‘ever more providers ... dealing with one person’s care’, and called for a health and social care service based on ‘people before profit’.

Earlier in the conference shadow health minister Lord Philip Hunt called CCGs a ‘complete waste of time’, and called for an end to the purchaser-provider divide.

Labour has said if elected in 2015 it would overturn the Health and Social Care Act that replaced PCTs with GP-led CCGs, but that there would not be a major reorganisation. Mr Burnham, who will give his main health policy address to conference on Wednesday, has said the party would not abolish CCGs, but would ask them to work differently.

A DH spokeswoman said: 'Doctors and nurses know their patients best – that’s why we have given them the power and freedom to make decisions so their local communities get the care they really need.

'The NHS and social care services need to work better together. That's why we have agreed a £3.8 billion fund which will make sure everyone gets the properly joined up care they need from whoever is best placed to deliver, whether that's the NHS or the local authority.'

The fringe event was organised by end of life care charities Help the Hospices, Marie Curie Cancer Care and Sue Ryder. Click here for reports and other resources on patient choice produced by the charities.

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