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CCGs embrace advice from private firms

Exclusive: Leading private companies are already advising scores of CCGs on how to spend NHS cash, as the Government’s new commissioning marketplace takes shape.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed this week it is now working with around 100 CCGs, while KPMG is working with 50 CCGs and Capita around 40.

The companies are providing a mixture of short-term support to CCGs and commissioning support units on areas such as governance and authorisation, alongside longer-term advice on how to meet the daunting £20bn efficiency challenge set by the Government’s QIPP agenda.

Pulse reported last year that private consultancy firm McKinsey had been enlisted by dozens of CCGs to advise on QIPP, budget-holding and governance, although McKinsey this week declined to comment. A Pulse investigation in January found four in 10 CCGs had begun to seek advice from the private sector.

Speaking at a Westminster Forum event last week, Tim Rideout, associate at KPMG, said the expertise provided by the private sector was vital as CCGs ‘do not have the capacity and capability to commission in an effective way’. He said: ‘The key message that comes from CCGs is that commissioning support is absolutely essential if they are going to succeed.’

Dr Jonathan Steel, senior clinical consultant to PwC and a GP in Uley, Gloucestershire, said: ‘We’re seeing the more advanced CCGs asking for help with service redesign.’

Liz Jones, director of commissioning services at Capita, told Pulse the firm was helping CCGs on issues ranging from helping them set up their boards to meeting QIPP targets. 

Ms Jones said: ‘What we’re seeing now is a fair number of [CCGs] starting to move beyond the authorisation hurdle. QIPP still needs to be delivered, can we bring a fresh pair of eyes to what they’ve been doing, [look at] why have they struggled to meet the numbers, what have they missed out, what could they do differently?’

Dr Michael Dixon, interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said the dynamics of commissioning support was ‘entirely a master-servant issue’.

But he added: ‘Commissioners need to be very much awake in terms of [judging] when commissioning support is just that, and when it begins to infringe upon their ability to make a decision.’

Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham, South east London, said she was ‘very concerned’ that private companies were being handed ‘enormous power and influence over commissioning’.

Dr Irvine said: ‘It is not the small friendly image of commissioning by your local GP that was promoted in the white paper.’