The DoH has launched a consultation to look at structures and ways of working with a view to implementing a new strategy by April.
The consultation follows a wide-ranging review, which was carried out by the NHS Alliance on behalf of the DoH, considering PECs’ future role, membership and support needs.
The resulting discussion document places strong importance on the role of PECs in practice-based commissioning (PBC) and says that stakeholders are unanimous in thinking ‘the PEC needs to shed some of its broader roles’.
Health minister Lord Warner wrote in the document that ‘since PECs were established in 1999, their success as the “engine room” of the PCT has been variable’.
‘In some areas, the committee structure has added little value. Stakeholders have been telling us for some time that PECs need to change, to reflect the changing role of PCTs.’
He said the changes to be discussed are key to the future of clinical engagement in PCTs but should not be restricted to clinical issues.
Although the document states that it does not want PBC groups to usurp PECs, it places a strong connection between the two.
‘The new PEC is key in facilitating and driving PBC, especially in its early development.
‘The PEC’s role will change with time as PBC matures. Good communication with PBC commissioners and consortia will be essential but a challenge, particularly in the larger reconfigured PCTs. However, stakeholders agree that PBC cannot replace the PEC.’
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon, who led the initial PEC review, said that clinical engagement with future PECs was key to delivering the more immeasurable targets of healthcare ‘such as compassion and dignity’.
The consultation runs until 31 January 2007.