Tories back NAPC plan for GP budgets

A National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) 'manifesto' calling for GPs and patients to control NHS funding could become a blueprint for primary care reform in the next parliament, after it was endorsed by the Conservatives.

Dr Peter Smith: We want to see how local people and practices can work together so practices can be more reponsive to local needs
Dr Peter Smith: We want to see how local people and practices can work together so practices can be more reponsive to local needs

The manifesto says practice-based commissioning (PBC) has failed in many areas and calls for practices and patients to control local health funding.

It calls for 'full accountability for the use of NHS resources transferring from PCTs to GPs, giving practices significant independence from PCTs'.

Local people should be more involved with practices on commissioning decisions, 'through use of a health dividend, the efficiency gain to be achieved through better use of NHS resources', it adds.

The NAPC has met all three main political parties and aims to speak with MPs in the coming weeks to refine the plans.

Conservative shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said he had met the NAPC earlier this month. He said he had not been involved in developing the manifesto, but backed its focus on local accountability.

'I welcome many of the NAPC's proposals, because they are in line with Conservative party thinking on primary care. We welcome its call for GPs to have accountability for resources, as we have proposed a system of GP commissioning, in which GPs hold real, not notional budgets.'

NAPC chairman Dr Johnny Marshall conceded that many of the manifesto's aims are broadly in line with Tory plans.

'But we are hoping to gain support from politicians from all sides,' he said. 'PBC has failed to deliver universal improvements. In some areas it has worked, in others it has not. We need to take it to the next level and I hope there will be support for that in all parties.'

GP contracts would have to be renegotiated to incorporate practices' new powers, he said.

GP revealed last month that the Conservatives plan to negotiate a new GP contract if they take office (GP, 30 October).

NAPC vice-president Dr Peter Smith said details to be refined in the coming weeks include clarity on how local people will be involved in decisions about healthcare funding.

'We want to see how local people and practices can work far more closely together so that practices can be more responsive to local needs,' he said.

The manifesto also calls for greater collaboration between practices in running services.

'The focus is on local collaborations because this is largely about giving local people more say in healthcare, but I cannot see why that cannot be extended across PCT boundaries or even further,' Dr Smith added.

Essex LMCs chairman Dr Brian Balmer said the plans could strengthen PBC. 'Some PCTs are handing budgets over and giving GPs a say. It is not happening everywhere.

'This is very similar to what the Conservatives have been saying. If the administration changes, PBC groups could find themselves in a far stronger position,' he added.

However, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman warned that many GPs did not want to hold budgets. The GPC would oppose anything that compelled them to do so, he said.

NAPC manifesto

  • GPs to be fully accountable for NHS resources transferred from PCTs.
  • Local people should be more involved with practices on commissioning decisions.
  • Greater collaboration is needed between practices in running services.

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