First 'pathfinder' GP consortia named
By Ian Quinn
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has named 52 groups of GP practices from across England who will become the first wave of GP consortia under his commissioning plans.
The so-called pathfinders will cover 12.8 million patients across England, around a quarter of the country's population, and have been selected to road test the ability of GPs to take over from PCTs.
The pathfinder consortia range from one made up of just one GP practice, to others covering more than 70. In Somerset, Wyvernhealth, a consortia made up of 75 GP practices with a population of over half a million, has been given the go ahead by Mr Lansley.
Yet in Radlett, Hertfordshire, the Red house Practice has become the country's smallest consortium and is the only one that consists of just one practice.
Pulse revealed the first set of pathfinders last month, led by groups of GPs in London, who make up eight of the total list and Manchester, where, as Pulse revealed, three rival PBC groups will form three different consortia.
Pulse also revealed yesterday that one of the first pathfinders, the Great West Commissioning Consortium, in Hounslow, has already contracted private firm United Health to jointly run a new referrals system to be used as a gateway by all practices.
Following renewed speculation over Treasury doubts over the ability of GPs to handle the task, the Department of Health promised that the full handover to GPs from PCTs will not start until the pathfinder consortia prove a success.
Mr Lansley said: ‘We want to create an NHS that puts patients at the heart of everything it does and is focused on achieving health outcomes that are amongst the best in the world.
‘Already leading the way and making this happen are the GPs selected to be pathfinders. I am delighted by the response and the evident enthusiasm for taking these ideas forward. They have demonstrated an enthusiasm and excitement for change and shown that there are many GPs ready and willing to take on commissioning responsibilities, so they can make the decisions that better meet the needs of their local communities and improve outcomes for their patients.
He added: ‘This first wave of pathfinders are just the start, many more GPs have already come forward to be included in the rolling programme of approved pathfinders and more will be announced in the coming weeks and months.
‘When we made a historic commitment to protect health spending, we committed to getting the best value from the health budget and make every penny count for patients. This means cutting bureaucracy and simplifying the NHS structure so that we are able to reinvest savings into what matters most – frontline services.'
He said the consortia were already targeting areas with specific health needs.
‘For example, Newcastle Bridges consortium serves an area of significant deprivation, poor housing and consequent ill health. The most ethnically diverse population of any consortia in the north east, clinicians there are working collaboratively with local authorities to achieve a strong single city wide commissioning function,' he said.
Kingston GP, Dr Charles Alessi, who led a successful pathfinder bid in Kingston, said: 'This is the start of a new journey and an exciting time for the NHS. We believe that removing management tiers and putting the clinician-patient relationship at the centre of commissioning means we can get better outcomes for patients.'
Map showing first 'pathfinder' GP consortia
View Pathfinder consortium in a larger map