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New wave of pathfinders 'show progress on efficiency savings'

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The second wave of GP pathfinder consortia unveiled today include many who had been previously rejected for failing to engage sufficiently with the programme of NHS efficiency savings, Pulse can reveal.

The Department of Health has announced that a further 89 pathfinders will test the ability of GPs to take over commissioning from PCTs, taking the total up to 141.

It comes as the GP spearheading the pathfinder scheme for the DH told Pulse that the latest wave included many of those who were unsuccessful in the first wave - who were now demonstrating ‘significant involvement' with the Government's QIPP agenda.

The pathfinders announced today include GP practices providing care to 28.6 million people across England, which, when added to the first wave, means over 50% of the population are now covered by pathfinder consortia.

The DH said the early progress of the pathfinders had reached ‘beyond our expectations', with Prime Minister David Cameron expected to welcome the ‘groundswell of support from general practices' in a speech later today.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the latest wave of pathfinders provided evidence that GPs were behind his plans.

He said: ‘This second group of selected pathfinders is welcome evidence of widespread enthusiasm for taking these ideas forward.'

‘It is clear that GPs and nurses are ready and willing to take on commissioning responsibilities, the pathfinders to date demonstrate this but most importantly, the changes will enable them to make the decisions that better meet the needs of their local communities and improve outcomes for their patients.'

Pulse revealed last week that dozens of GP consortia across England had been rejected in their bids to become first wave pathfinders as they had failed to meet the required criteria.

But Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, director of GP commissioning at NHS East of England, who is leading nationally for the DH on pathfinder learning development, said many had now been accepted as they had shown big improvements in their engagement with QIPP.

He told Pulse: ‘We've gone from a relatively standing start to having groups out there organised, involved in QIPP, involved in commissioning decisions.'

‘We are selecting along these lines: can GPs demonstrate engagement with the public and local authorities, and QIPP. We are seeing really significant involvement in all those areas.'

Dr Ed Garrett, deputy director of GP commissioning at NHS East of England, said the quality of pathfinder applications had improved since the first wave.

He said: ‘What's really noticeable [in the second wave] is the quality of applications has really improved. The GP leadership is becoming a lot stronger and more co-ordinated. There's much better engagement around the QIPP agenda, which is really significant.'

Click here to read the full list of new pathfinders

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read: New pathfinders are showing 'really significant engagement' with QIPP Dr Paul Zollinger-Read: New pathfinders are showing 'really significant engagement' with QIPP Your views

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