These early adopters will take on budgets a year before PCTs are scrapped in April 2013. The announcement follows calls from NHS commentators including the King’s Fund to pilot GP commissioning before rolling it out nationally.
The pathfinders will be part of a DoH evaluation of GP commissioning, Andrew Lansley said. ‘They will be involved from the start with the research project as part of an evaluation that will take several years,’ he told the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham.
Mr Lansley said: 'I have spoken to and met many GPs around the country who want to take control of commissioning services. The proposals in the NHS White Paper will allow them to do this in the future, but I want to give them the opportunity to make early progress now.
'That is why I am inviting emerging GP Consortia to put themselves forward and become new and innovative pathfinder consortia. I want to empower those that want to make progress and press ahead with change.'
The health secretary said ‘concrete’ details of the duties and resources available to consortia would be published before Christmas 2010.
‘I think the response from the profession has been one of enthusiasm but apprehension,’ he added. ‘People need to know how much resource they will have to deploy.’
He said the DoH was making good progress in working out a revised funding allocation formula that is ‘much more geared towards the actual population characteristics’.
The DoH has also launched the first commissioning pack to guide consortia on designing cardiac rehabilitation services.
To kick-start the programme the Department has made £1m available from central funding to support regional learning programmes across England. GP practices keen to participate in the pathfinder programme will need to put themselves forward to their Primary Care Trust and Strategic Health Authority from the end of October.
News Blog: A Funny Feeling at the NAPC Conference