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PCTs must support GPs in order to deliver ‘world-class commissioning’, writes NHS commissioning chief Mark Britnell

PCTs must support GPs in order to deliver ‘world-class commissioning', writes NHS commissioning chief Mark Britnell

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and its NHS partners launched a vision for world-class commissioning and the skills needed for this in the document Adding life to years and years to life.

The commissioning landscape is changing. People are living longer, lifestyles are changing and the cost of new drugs and treatments are rising. All of this creates new challenges for commissioners.

World-class commissioning will radically transform the way we commission healthcare, by delivering a more strategic, longterm and outcome-focused approach. This will not only ensure the NHS is able to meet the challenges but also continues to set the global benchmark for healthcare services.

The aim is to ensure that commissioners systematically develop a world-class approach to all they do, underpinned by skills in knowledge management, leadership and strategy development. PCTs will have overall accountability for healthcare commissioning,and lead thework to make this vision a reality.

But they cannot deliver this by working in isolation.

It is vital they form close relationships with patients,the public,local government, clinicians and providers. Indeed, partnership is at the very core of this vision. In particular,clinical involvement will be key to success.

At the National Association of Primary Care's annual conference in October, health minister Ben Bradshaw made it clear that PBC is ‘here to stay'. Our plans recognise the unique contribution GPs make in helping PCTs set priorities, and designing and developing services that best meet the needs of the local population. This is an exciting time for practice based commissioners.

Although PCTs will lead the process of assessing local needs and deciding priorities, practice-based commissioners will take the lead in shaping clinical outcomes and driving innovation in service provision. In some cases, practices may also become key providers of services in the community.

PCTs will need to fully support practices by providing them with an indicative budget and timely financial and activity information,together with the analytical and managerial support needed to put this information to good use.

The policy framework document "Practice-based commissioning: practical implementation" sets out in detail the arrangements PCTs should have in place.

In areas where partnerships between PCTs and practices are strongest,we are beginning to see PBC make a real difference. In south Manchester, gynaecology services have been transformed by a new GPSI-led service, commissioned by the local PBC consortium.

The GPSI now handles over 30% of referrals,significantly easing the pressure on secondary care,and in many cases making care more accessible. Further good examples of service redesign are in the NHS Alliance's report Early wins,early lessons.

With the NHS back in financial balance, we are now in a stronger position than ever to improve the health of the population by commissioning services in innovative ways.

The NHS Next Stage Review signals a new vision for the NHS that is fair,personalised, effective and safe. Through partnership and a world-class approach to commissioning, PCTs and practices can drive unprecedented improvements in patient outcomes and ensure the NHS remains one of the most progressive health systems in the world.

Mark Britnell is director general of commissioning and system management at the Department of Health

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