Professor Paul Corrigan, health policy adviser to prime minister Tony Blair ruled it out because it could imbalance regional distribution of NHS funding.
‘We have a population-based way of distributing money,’ Professor Corrigan told the NHS Alliance conference in Bournemouth last week.
‘If you live in an area where there is a problem with the commissioner, individuals should not be able to opt out in that area.’
Allowing patients to opt out of their local health economy would undermine attempts to make local health economies develop services to fit the needs of their population.
‘If you had choices of commissioner we would lose the community-to-individual relationship,’ he said.
Professor Corrigan confirmed there would be a role for private firms. ‘Buying healthcare for a locality is an incredible responsibility. The private sector does some of it very well — not all of it, but we have to involve it,’ he said.
GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said it was ‘common sense’ to restrict patients from moving between commissioners.
He pointed out that GP commissioners’ decisions had to fit in with their PCT’s overall plan, so dramatic differences in services commissioned by different groups in a similar area were unlikely.
However, NHS Alliance chief executive Michael Sobanja told GP that choice of commissioner would be difficult to prevent.
‘If you have budgets at practice level and you let patients choose which practice they register with, you have choice of commissioner,’ he said.