Viewpoint - Why abolish PCTs if all their staff are such good workers?

Paul Corrigan suggests why Mr Lansley is recommending PCT staff to CCGs.

Paul Corrigan: PCT staff may end up doing the same job in CCGs (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Paul Corrigan: PCT staff may end up doing the same job in CCGs (Photograph: JH Lancy)

Last month at the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham I heard health secretary Andrew Lansley speak. What interested me most was the way in which he talked about the nature of the commissioning support that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) would need as and when they become authorised.

Freedom for CCGs
Having expressed his belief in CCGs' freedom to employ who they wanted, he then said to the audience, on four separate occasions, that there were very good people with the right skills that CCGs needed who were now working in PCT clusters.

You will want to 'build on relationships with existing colleagues'. You will recognise that 'these skills can be found in PCTs'.

Later on when I spoke at a panel, I said that I hoped he was getting some agency fees for such a fervent set of recommendations. At the very least whenever a CCG used an ex-PCT member of staff, the health secretary should get a 10 per cent introduction fee.

Then it was pointed out to me why he was doing this. He desperately wanted CCGs to employ ex-PCT staff because if they did not he would have to pay their redundancy costs.

If those costs came into the budget in 2012/13, it would increase the cost of the reforms to a much greater sum than he has predicted.

Legal disagreement
His theoretical position was that the 'CCGs would be free to employ who they wanted to provide them with support'. However, there is some legal disagreement about this. It is quite possible because CCGs are taking on the tasks that are at the moment being carried out by PCT staff, that they take on board the liability of those staff who are at the moment taking on those tasks. They will have to be transferred over to the CCGs using the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations.

Perhaps the health secretary was simply warming up the CCGs to what good staff they are in PCTs because they will actually have no choice but to employ them. So, let me get this right.

In July 2010, weren't PCTs just a bunch of bureaucrats who were getting in the way of decent commissioning?

Just 18 months later these same people have the skills to ensure that good commissioning would take place.

The thought crept over me that if PCT staff are so good that the health secretary should recommend their skills to future CCGs why then has the same health secretary gone to all the trouble of abolishing them?

If the same people will be doing the same jobs has it all been worth it?

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