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Consortia will be able to commission services from their own GP members, minister reveals

GPs will be able to commission services from providers who are part of their own consortium if they agree to stringent new transparency rules to guard against conflict of interest, the Government has revealed.

Health minister Earl Howe told last week’s NHS Alliance annual conference the Government was drawing up plans for inclusion in its health bill that would seek to get over the potentially major barrier posed by potential conflicts.

‘Consortia will be able to commission from constituent practices as long as there is transparency and as long as they are not anti-competitive,’ Earl Howe said.

‘We have to be careful about cosy relationships,’ he added. ‘There may be a healthy cosy relationship, but if it is too cosy we have to start asking questions. There is every reason in the world to go for a local community service as long as it is the best one going and as long as it is not anti-competitive.’

Earl Howe sought to ease fears over the potential impact of its any willing provider policy, claiming Monitor, the economic regulator, will not be expected to ‘drum up artificial competition’.

The minister also claimed the Government was determined to provide consortia with adequate management budgets.

‘We want the management allowance to be sufficient to enable commissioners to be able to do their job. We are on the case.’

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon told the conference GPs should be allowed to take on work previously done in hospital as long as they opened their books to demonstrate financial transparency.