This site is intended for health professionals only

Burnham: GPs have been ‘sold a pup’

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has accused the Government of misleading GPs about their power to shape local services through CCGs, as he introduced radical new proposals to merge health and social care budgets.

Mr Burnham said that the Government had not delivered on its promise to put GPs in the driving seat of the NHS, citing the closure of Lewisham A&E as an example where CCG voices were not being heard.

Mr Burnham earlier spelled out plans to merge the health and social care budgets, which would see health and wellbeing boards taking control of NHS funds from CCGs.

In a briefing after his speech, Mr Burnham said he wanted to move away from clinicians leading commissioning completely.

He said: ‘I’m not planning on getting rid of CCGs… I remain committed to clinical involvement in commissioning. Clinical control of commissioning is a problem though because producer-led public commissioning isn’t necessarily a good thing.

‘Will those people take decisions that could inconvenience themselves, such as opening longer at evenings and weekends? That is something we will see more of as current reforms develop. It is better for the professions to be held to account by democratically accountable commissioning.’

Mr Burnham acknowledged that there will be a shift in responsibilities. He told Pulse: ‘[Former health secretary Andrew] Lansley should have just inherited our PCTs and SHAs and remodelled them. He didn’t need new legal entities… I am going to use the organisations I inherit and refocus them.

‘If that means the balance of power is going to shift, then so be it. But I don’t think it is clear where the balance of power lies in this new system. I think GPs have been sold a pup by the Government. They said it is all about you, you are in charge.

‘That is not how it is turning out. Already we are seeing GPs told what to do by the commissioning group. I don’t think the system is doing what it said on the tin. CCGs are being sat on from a great height. That is what I am hearing.’

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt said Labour planned a ‘massive restructuring’ of the NHS which would take power away from GPs.

He said: ‘I welcome the fact that Labour have finally recognised the importance of integrated care, but they had 13 years to achieve this and failed to do so. In fact, the system they left was fragmented and focused on treating patients as a collection of conditions not as individuals.

‘In the last two years we have put patients at the heart of the NHS by allowing GPs, who understand the sometimes complex conditions of their patients, to commission services to meet their personal needs.’