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Commissioning handover is underway, report PCTs

By Susan McNulty

Shadow commissioning groups are being launched across the country, despite lack of detail on key issues such as the management allowance amount and whether PCTs' deficits will be passed on.

Of 25 trusts contacted by Practical Commissioning's sister paper, Pulse, all but six said they have already handed greater representation to GPs, or are planning to. There are also several reports of PEC committees already being scrapped and replaced with GP commissioning boards.

The finding comes as exec members of both the NAPC and NHS Alliance warned the health bill going before parliament next month would be light on detail.

Dr David Jenner: commissioning lead for the NHS Alliance, said: ‘I think we can be sure that the legislation when it comes will be very high level and will lack detail. The detail will probably follow later through (DH) directions and secondary legislation.

‘The Government wants the professionals to help write the detail via the consultation. However, (NHS Chief Executive) David Nicholson has said that the government´s response to the White Paper consultation won´t be published until December. So really, until then, we´re in a kind of phoney war.'

NAPC chair, Dr Johnny Marshall, said: ‘The white paper is lacking in detail but the (health) Bill will probably have even less. I anticipate that there are only going to be parts of the White Paper in the Bill.'

Growing concerns about missing detail prompted health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to write to every GP last month to answer GPs questions.

In the letter – believed to be the first time a health secretary has written directly to GPs – Mr Lansley said ‘the reality is no decision has yet been taken' about the management allowance. At least two PCTs are understood to be having their management roles and functions dissected to help the DH come to a decision on the amount to allocate.

In a sign that many PCT functions will no longer exist, Mr Lansley said: ‘There is no expectation that consortia should resemble PCTs in their own structures. We intend that only essential requirements (such as financial accounting) are set out as statutory duties.'

He added: ‘There are many responsibilities placed on PCTs which we propose will not be placed upon consortia. We envisage that some responsibilities will transfer to local authorities, or to the NHS commissioning board and that others may be scrapped entirely.'

NAPC chair, Dr Johnny Marshall