Meet patients' needs through PBC, says DoH

GPs should become involved in practice-based commissioning (PBC) to demonstrate their responsiveness to patients' needs, according to health minister Rosie Winterton.

Speaking to GP, the minister, who is responsible for patient and public involvement, said PBC encouraged innovation.

Asked why GPs should commission, Ms Winterton said: 'This would be a way GPs could show they were meeting the needs of their patients. It allows for innovation and working closely with patients.'

The DoH target is for all practices in England to be involved with PBC by the end of this year.

Last week, plans were unveiled for PCTs formally to respond to public petitions if more than 1 per cent of the local community were unhappy with a particular health service.

New bodies known as local involvement networks (LINks) have been designed to give patients more clout to influence services both in hospitals and primary care.

The DoH said that patients and the local community should be fully involved in the commissioning process, from the assessment of need, through priorities for service development to feedback on the performance of services.

When asked whether LINks could overturn clinical decisions, Ms Winterton said: 'It would not be appropriate for LINks to be talking about a purely clinical approach. They will look at general provision.'

The guidance was issued at the same time as a revised tender advert to procure specialist support services to help PCTs improve their commissioning functions.

For example, PCTs may choose to seek help with actuarial skills for population assessment, data analysis or opinion surveys.

The procurement means that if any PCTs decide to seek this kind of support, they will have a menu of companies with expertise in these specialist areas to choose from.

Asked whether the public backed increased private involvement in the NHS, Ms Winterton said: 'I think the public wants to know that if a PCT is making a decision, it is receiving the best advice in doing so. This ensures directly provided services are not affected.'

The DoH issued a document entitled 'Health Reform in England: update and commissioning framework' last week.

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