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GP commissioning overhaul 'opens door to private sector'

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government's shake-up of primary care commissioning will increase the opportunities for the private sector to advise on how to spend NHS cash, a study has found.

A report by the King's Fund said that the scale of the plans would mean some GPs choosing to ‘outsource full responsibility' for commissioning to external organisations, but said others would look to establish risk-sharing contracts to ‘help make support more affordable.'

The report, Building high quality commissioning, comes after Pulse recently revealed that GPs are already in talks with private companies such as Tribal and Humana over potential risk-sharing partnerships under the new Government's commissioning plans.

Chris Naylor, author of the report, and senior researcher at the King's Fund, said giving commissioning responsibilities to GPs would ‘amplify the trend' established under the previous administration, which invited private companies to support NHS commissioning through schemes like the Framework for Procuring External Support for Commissioning (FESC).

‘If PCTs have struggled to ‘do it alone', this will be all the more true of GP consortia, which will be smaller and have less commissioning experience. In order to be effective commissioners consortia will need support,' he said.

‘I do think independent sector firms are going to play a role in this.'

In a survey of NHS commissioners carried out as part of the study, 52% of respondents said external support would be needed if commissioners are to reach the highest levels on the world class commissioning competency framework.

The survey also showed that the proportion of PCTs reporting using external support had risen from 76% in 2009 to 89% in 2010, with 40% of this support coming from commercial companies.

The report said: ‘Our overall assessment is that, if used appropriately, external support can play a role in raising the standard of commissioning in the NHS.'

Tony Sampson, director of external affairs at UnitedHealth UK, which already holds a host of contracts to provide commissioning support to the NHS, said the company was keen to take on a greater role, and said it too had begun talks with GPs.

‘The report makes clear that partnerships with external providers can improve the quality of commissioning,' he said.

‘We're already working with GPs in providing data, analytics and other services. Increasingly groups of GPs are talking to us about how we can support them in delivering the commissioning agenda".

The Government's shake-up of primary care commissioning will increase the opportunities for the private sector to advise on how to spend NHS cash, the study found The Government's shake-up of primary care commissioning will increase the opportunities for the private sector to advise on how to spend NHS cash, the study found The NAPC Annual Conference - changes in Primary Care Commissioning

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