Paul Corrigan: Patient groups' responsibility to GPs

GP commissioners who try to develop new co-ordinated services will know that to gain the right to do what's best for their public, they will have to win powerful battles with vested interests.

Earlier this month, a front page story in The Guardian showed just how difficult this can be.

Four CCGs in Staffordshire are working together to create two integrated outcome-based contracts for cancer services and end-of-life care.

Importantly, they are being helped by Macmillan Cancer Care. What made the front page story was the interest shown at this early stage by a number of private companies looking to become involved in co-ordinating these services.

Apparently, once the private sector simply shows an interest in developing services for NHS patients free at the point of need with equal access to all, any process that led to this possible interest must be stopped. As I say, GP commissioners intent on improving services will recognise the inevitable attempt by conservative forces to resist change.

The important lesson for commissioners from this story is the involvement of Macmillan Cancer Care in working to develop the contract. One of the charity's tasks is to stand up for cancer patients and to argue for improved services.

Along with other patient groups, one of its main criticisms of present services is the harm done to care by the fragmented services that are currently delivered.

Given Macmillan's stress on co-ordinated care, it is hardly surprising that it is helping the CCGs to develop a single integrated contract for cancer and one for end-of-life care.

By carrying out this work, it is helping to develop new co-ordinated care services for the cancer patients it represents.

The lesson from this is not that the forces of conservatism will always try to stop change for NHS patients. Nothing new there. The lesson is that patient groups have a responsibility to help commissioners to develop new services and assist in that battle for change. CCGs should ensure they ask patient groups for that help.

  • Paul Corrigan is a management consultant and former adviser to Tony Blair. He writes for our sister site, Inside Commissioning, at

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