By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: GP consortiums may be lumbered with massive financial deficits inherited from debt-stricken PCTs as soon as they take over commissioning powers, the Department of Health has admitted.
Radical plans put forward in last month's NHS White Paper mean that GP consortiums will be expected to take on all of PCTs' commissioning functions by April 2013, when both PCTs and SHAs will be abolished.
But the Department of Health said this week it could not guarantee a clean financial slate for consortiums, amid fears that GPs could inherit hundreds of millions of pounds worth of debt from cash-strapped PCTs.
A DH spokeswoman told Pulse: ‘No decisions have yet been taken on this issue. We are consulting on the detail of how the White Paper will be implemented.'
The Government's refusal to commit on the issue has placed GP leaders on red alert as they seek to ensure that consortiums are given a fair crack of the whip in trying to make a success of the plans.
Dr Nigel Watson, head of the GPC's commissioning and service development sub-committee and a GP in the New Forest, Hampshire, said GP commissioning would not get off the ground if consortiums were lumbered with debts from the off.
'We would like there to be financial balance when they handover so that they are not handing you a debt, and we start with a clean slate,' he said. 'Then you've got half a chance of achieving it.'
‘You can't just hang great big millstones around the necks of the commissioning consortiums.'
Dr Watson warned that GPs would be dissuaded from engaging with commissioning unless deficits were sorted out before the handover.
He said: ‘Human behaviour is if something is achievable, people will work towards it. If it's not achievable, they'll just give up and ignore it.'
‘You can't just hide deficits and get rid of them. They've got to be addressed before you go because it will make some of the areas real sink areas for commissioning, and it won't get off the ground.'Dr Nigel Watson: 'You can't just hang great big millstones around the necks of the commissioning consortiums' Dr Nigel Watson: 'You can't just hang great big millstones around the necks of the commissioning consortiums' Click here for more on GP commissioning Health White Paper More on GP commissioning at the NAPC Annual Conference
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