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Can practice based commissioning survive the press test?

Practical Commissioning editor Sue McNulty on the media relations of PBC

Practical Commissioning editor Sue McNulty on the media relations of PBC

Can practice based commissioning (PBC) survive the press test?
What will happen when the media catches on that GPs are setting up these community services and ,shock, horror getting money to do so.

In the national press this will easily translate as ‘GP fat cats' or ‘patients for profits'. A Liverpool cluster had a taste of this a couple of years ago when the national press picked up that GPs were sending patients to a dermatology service they'd set up.

But the argument with the public can be won, especially if PBC groups get patients on board at the beginning of any service redesign.

A reporter will soon lose the wind from their sails when Joe Public starts telling them how much they prefer the PBC model, how they advised on its creation and how much care has improved since it was introduced.

And PBC does do wonderful things and its achievements should be celebrated more. PBC can ensure terminally ill patients can die at home if they wish, stop patients going into care homes and get tests done in weeks rather than months.

Sadly I doubt very much whether some PCTs are going to be up to the challenge to win any such battles with the media.

My team speaks to PCTs and SHAs every week and you wonder if they hear the word ‘press' and think it means press the panic button.

The following are typical responses we've had recently to innocuous requests for information about their PBC schemes.

- ‘Why do you want to know that?'

- ‘I'd sooner you didn't run that article at all'

– ‘I'm not sure we want to put that information into the public domain'

- ‘Are you going to misrepresent me?'

The other week I wanted to clarify some figures in a feature written by a GP who now wasn't returning my calls because he was too busy with his day job.

So I thought I'd try the PBC manager at the PCT who turned round and said she didn't want me to run the article and there was no way she was going to help me.

Exasperated – and on deadline – I started looking on the internet. And guess what? The PCT website had a press release on it about the new service complete with cost details.

Transparency good. Obtuseness makes a reporter think they should start sniffing....

Susan McNulty, editor of Practical Commissioning

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