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Government pledges that clinicians will have more influence on PCT policymaking via revamped PECs

More power for GPs within PCTs

Revamped professional executive committees will give GPs and other clinicians more power over PCT policymaking, the Government is claiming.

Launching a consultation on new structures for PECs, health minister Lord Warner said it was imperative the committees enabled clinicians to be more influential.

An NHS Alliance review of PECs, on which the consultation is based, concluded many were treated as advisers by trust managers and had little or no influence.

Most respondents to the alliance's review proposed that PECs should be cut to between four and eight members from the current level of 18.

Reducing the size would mean fewer clinicians on the PEC and possibly no GP representation.

The consultation will also ask how PEC performance can be monitored, whether PCTs should draw up formal job descriptions, responsibilities and competencies for members and how much they should be paid.

Lord Warner said: 'It is imperative we take action to ensure clinicians and health care professionals are involved in decision making. It is also clear we need to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach so these committees can better reflect local circumstances.'

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and author of its review, said the potential for conflicts of interest to emerge among some GP PEC members because of practice-based commissioning had to be tackled.

He said: 'GPs could hold commissioning budgets and might also be debating the use of a provider service in which they had a holding.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said the issue of how GP members of the committees were covered by their practice also had to be sorted out: 'Very experienced doctors were taken out of practices, which had to cover the workload left behind.'

Dr Dinah Roy, a GP and PEC member at County Durham PCT, said committee members needed to know that managers were waiting on their decisions.

She said: 'PEC members should not have to keep repeating themselves, moaning or shouting to get things done. In some places PECs have worked well but I heard of one place where they were only having two meetings a year.'

The Department of Health consultation ends on 7 February.

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