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Government rejects call to change course on GP commissioning

By Ian Quinn

The Government has rejected calls by MPs for a u-turn over its plans for GP commissioning, as it prepares to plough ahead with the health bill.

As the House of Commons gets ready to debate the bill as it enters its second reading, the Government issued a fierce rebuttal to a series of fundamental concerns about the measures, raised by the Commons Health Committee.

The committee, chaired by former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, had accused the Government of abandoning the coalition's policy of evolving rather than scrapping PCTs, claiming there was insufficient evidence for the sweeping changes, which it said could scupper the £20bn NHS savings drive.

But in their response ministers claimed there had ‘not been a significant change of approach' between the coalition's formation and the publication of the health white paper last July and strongly defended plans to do away with PCTs as the ‘logical extension' of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ideas.

The health committee claimed the changes will ‘blunt' the ability of trusts to hit the massive savings targets, as PCTs implode ahead of their abolition.

But in its response the Government claims the changes were ‘essential to enable the NHS to respond to the productivity challenge.'

Accused of causing ‘significant institutional upheaval' with little prior discussion, the Government claims the moves will ‘reduce bureaucracy and remove duplication,' adding: 'There has not been a significant change of approach. The coalition programme set out a vision of an NHS that is free from political micromanagement, with increased patient participation and greater accountability to the patients it serves – a vision that the Liberating the NHS programme is designed to achieve.'

The Government also claimed it had listened to criticism in the white paper consultation, with organisations including the BMA, the RCGP and the NHS Confederation all setting out major fears over the pace and scale of the plans.

‘For example, we have refined our approach to implementation, allowing a longer and more phased transition period, with time to plan and test through pathfinders and early implementers,' says the response.

Government has rejected MPs' calls for a change in direction Government has rejected MPs' calls for a chnage in direction More on...

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