Underfunded GP pensions eat into contract pay rise
GPs are warning that the coming wave of PCT mergers could worsen financial and organisational problems faced by NHS managers.
With merger talks under way in the Midlands, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Avon, in line with NHS directives for PCTs to operate more 'effectively', GPs fear increased management and bureaucracy will hamper practice-based commissioning.
The NHS Alliance also questioned the rationale of mergers, warning it had 'yet to see the evidence' that they would lead to savings.
Dr Simon Bradley, chair of Avon LMC, said he doubted the merger of Bristol South and West PCT with Bristol North PCT would help ease Avon's £100 million deficit.
The number of senior managers at Bristol South and West PCT has doubled in the past three years, he said.
'What we haven't seen is anything like the level of up-front investment in commissioning that would allow
practices to break even,' he said.
Dr Nick Summerton, former medical director of Yorkshire Wolds and Coast PCT, which is merging with East Yorkshire PCT, said trust managers' ability to engage clinicians had so far been 'appalling'.
Dr Summerton, a GP in Goole, East Yorkshire, said: 'They can jiggle around but I'm not convinced it makes a blind bit of difference. We should make PCTs history.'
Dr Simon Lockett, secretary of Norfolk LMC, said a merger between Broadland PCT and Norwich PCT was seen as a desperate solution to 'chronic' financial problems.
'I think PCTs are being encouraged to look at anything that might help,' he said. 'If you were sensibly cynical you would think it won't any difference at all.'
By Rob Finch