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Alliance calls for health bill rethink

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government's health bill should be reshaped to remove potential conflicts between GPs' collective responsibilities to their consortia and their individual duties to their practice contracts and the GMC, says the NHS Alliance.

The Alliance has called on the Government to clarify these ‘major issues' around the Health and Social Care Bill, which it claims could jeopardise the successful implementation of GP commissioning.

It has called on the Government to ‘remove any tensions between section 24D of the Bill - the clause that requires practices to act in a manner consistent with consortia policy - and the duties conferred on individual GPs by the GMC and the contractual elements of practice-held contracts -GMS, PMS and others'.

The organisation has also called for urgent clarification on a host of other areas related to the bill, including the extension of competition, which it says must be used to ‘stimulate greater integration of services and not fragment them'.

It warned that the Any Willing Provider policy should not be used to ‘flood the provider market and undermine commissioning based on local need', and said the move to maximum tariff pricing must not endanger the focus on quality of service.

The Alliance also called for commissioning to remain publicly accountable – with statutory bodies acting on behalf of and accountable to local communities, for regulators to act in a manner supportive of commissioning requirements; and for the new national commissioning board to adopt ‘a style of management which is truly enabling and empowering'.

It also urged the Government to ensure that GP commissioning consortia will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act – warning that ‘this must not become the territory of ‘commercial in confidence' withholding of information about the use of public money'.

Michael Sobanja, chief executive of the NHS Alliance, said: ‘Clinically-led commissioning, as proposed in the bill, provides the best chance for the NHS to deliver a truly integrated care for its patients, where local needs are fully met.

‘However, some key aspects leave open the possibility that service may become less integrated, less accountable, less fair and less transparent. So we need to make sure these are fully addressed.'

He added: ‘We are fully committed to clinically-led commissioning and we believe that clarification of these issues would enhance the current reform programme and mitigate implementation risks often associated with significant change.'

The NHS Alliance have called for clarity around 'major issues' with the health bill