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CCG leaders to prioritise GP engagement from April

Exclusive CCG leaders have said they will prioritise engagement with GP practices ahead of improving patients’ GP experience and improving wellbeing and lifestyle behaviours, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The CCG leaders, all of whom were GPs, put reducing emergency admissions as their first most important priority and engagement with CCG practices as their second, ahead of responsibilities such as managing the budget.

The snapshot survey asked 24 CCG leaders to rank eight areas that CCGs are likely to concentrate on this year. Keeping within budget was the third most important objective and improving GP prescribing quality reducing prescribing costs was bottom of the list.

Other areas were reconfiguring hospital services, improving patient experience of GP services and improving wellbeing and lifestyle behaviours.

Commissioning leaders said that they thought CCG leaders had their ‘priorities right’ and that they were pleased to see that engagement with local practices was given such a high priority.

Reducing emergency admissions will form a quarter of the quality premium for CCGs, a larger proportion than any other area, and GPs said it was unsurprising this was regarded as first priority.

The BMA warned recently the Government’s planned contract changes from April in England will place an ‘enormous strain’ on practices and reduce the chance of adequate engagement and input from GPs into CCGs.

Dr Charles Alessi, chair of the NAPC, said: ‘As far as I am concerned, engagement is the single most important thing. Only if you have that can you hope to have any of the others right.

‘What GPs are being asked to do is to fundamentally change what they do every day in this new world and to think in terms of population health. It’s difficult to do this unless you have good engagement between the CCG and member practices.’

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said: ‘Some people would say that should not be the second priority because it should be things that commissioners do, such as reconfiguration, but I think they have their priorities right.

‘The worst mistake PCTs made was to not do that. They became disconnected from their practices.’

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, said: ‘Emergency admissions are nationally mandated and that agenda has been pushed through by the CCG approval process. That was also going to be the main priority – if you didn’t prioritise that, you didn’t pass the exam question.

‘As for engaging practices, it seems to be a message that has come through the very senior NHS managers in each CCG. It did seem to be a big discussion in our own CCG and the fact it is widespread seems to suggest it is from above.’

He added this would be a positive development if it meant practices having more say in their health economy.

However, he added: ‘If it is NHS managers speak of “I will be running a set-up of additional performance quality metrics on these practices via their membership organisations that entails a requirement over and above their contractual requirements”, then this could be a heavy-handed approach.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Find out how the changes to commissioning from April will benefit you and your practice at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers, will cover the latest developments in telehealth.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.