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GPs to sit on local authorities as councils take on key commissioning role

GPs will be forced to work closely alongside local authorities when the new era of GP-led commissioning begins to take place, the Government has revealed.

The details of the plans for GPs to take on commissioning responsibility, published this week in a White Paper consultation document, reveal GPs will be required to sit on new local council ‘health and wellbeing' boards.

GP consortiums will work in partnership with local authorities to jointly plan and commission health and adult social care, public health and integrated care, with local authorities acting as the lead commissioner for certain services, such as older people's care.

And local authorities will be given the power to block GP commissioning strategies if they do not agree with a consortium's plans, and refer disagreements to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

GPs will also have to cooperate with local councils and other agencies in relation to criminal justice.

Local authorities are set to play a much more prominent role in commissioning, the document states, and will be given ‘a new enhanced role' in promoting public involvement in decisions about service priorities and changes to local services, and in responding to any public concerns about inadequate involvement.

‘Local government will have an enhanced responsibility for promoting partnership working and integrated delivery of public services across the NHS, social care, public health and other services. One way in which this could occur is through health and wellbeing boards which would include representatives from GP consortia.'

No stipulations are made about the size or geographical boundaries of GP consortiums, but the document states they will need to have geographical boundaries that ‘interlock' in order to make the cooperation with local authorities work, ‘so that taken together they cover the entire country'.

Earlier this week health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Health Select Committee that local authorities would be able to refer commissioning plans which raised concerns to an independent panel.

‘People have not recognised that we are going to ally GP commissioning with local accountability through local authorities,' he said. 'They have to agree. If they don't, it will be referred to the independent reconfiguration panel. Proactively, local authorities will be involved.'

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK (credit: Elliot Brown, Flickr) Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK (credit: Elliot Brown, Flickr)

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