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So who should go first on the quango bonfire?

The NHS Alliance is right to call for a cull of many of the quangos clogging up the NHS.

By Richard Hoey

The NHS Alliance is right to call for a cull of many of the quangos clogging up the NHS.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, has just called for a 'bonfire of the quangos', claiming that NICE and the CQC are necessary, but that pretty much everything else is not.

So, no National Prescribing Centre, no National Patient Safety Agency, no NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, and none of the other complicatedly named organisations that compete to tell GPs what to do.

I can't help but be reminded of a lunch I had with Dr Dixon a few weeks ago, in which we discussed this topic. I remember stabbing the air with my risotto-clad fork, and asking: ‘What exactly is the point of the National Prescribing Centre?'

It was a question I was asking myself again earlier this week, during an interesting conversation with Dr Neal Maskrey, the centre's director of evidence-based therapeutics.

He was rather exercised about a story we'd written on an NPC bulletin, suggesting GPs treat patients with thiazide diuretics first line, rather than following the NICE/BHS ACD algorithm.

It's perhaps not surprising that he was unhappy, given that the bulletin hadn't gone down very well with cardiologists.

Pulse quoted the BHS's Professor Neil Poulter as saying: ‘The NPC is talking bollocks', and his colleague Professor Peter Sever as advising: ‘The NPC advice should be ignored and buried.'

But what did raise an eyebrow was the nature of Dr Maskrey's complaints. He denied the NPC had a role as ‘NHS prescribing advisers', although its own strapline reads ‘supporting high-quality prescribing across the NHS'.

And he insisted the NPC never disagreed with NICE, despite the apparent evidence to the contrary – something to do with interwoven income streams, apparently.

I couldn't help wondering though – if the NPC doesn't advise the NHS on prescribing, and if it never disagrees with NICE, then what exactly does it do?

And, as Dr Dixon might ask, would GPs miss it if it was gone?

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor

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