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NHS chief executive slams Government's GP commissioning plans

By Ian Quinn

NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson has launched a scathing attack on health secretary Andrew Lansley's proposals for handing over commissioning responsibility to GPs.

In the closing speech to the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool today, the NHS chief questioned the wisdom of the Government's flagship health policy, saying he doubted it would be possible to transfer commissioning budgets to GPs within two years, as planned.

He said: ‘Even the most optimistic people wont say we will get this system up and running [by 2012]. I think it's dangerous to put a date of that kind of nature.'

Sir David also turned his fire on the ability of GP commissioners, saying that if PBC groups were rated on the quality of their commissioning on a scale of one to 10, even the best were ‘only about a three'.

The Government plans to transfer 95% of commissioning responsibility to GPs under a new health bill due out next month and is to scrap SHA's by 2012, with their commissioning role being taken over by a new independent health board.

Mr Nicholson said negotiations with the BMA would be crucial to the policy's success, but added that it was ‘dangerous' to place such a tight timescale on the plans, as this would only serve to strengthen the BMAs negotiating position.

'Giving a date so early will only give power to the BMA in these negotiations,' he said.

But his words are completely at odds with the health secretary, who told delegates at the conference yesterday that the plans must be brought in quickly.

'There is no merit in making these changes take a long time,' he said. 'There is every merit in knowing what we need to do and doing it quickly. I have been with GPs who say they are ready to go now.'

David Nicholson: claims most GPs are not ready to take on commissioning David Nicholson: claims most GPs are not ready to take on commissioning NAPC Conference

NAPC Annual Conference – all you need to know about GP commissioning and practice business and finance. For more information, go to www.napcannual.co.uk.

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