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Fears GP commissioning could be ‘diluted’ after cabinet reshuffle

Senior GP leaders have raised fears over the future direction of clinical commissioning under new health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Following last week’s announcement that Mr Lansley had been removed from his post as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle, GPs have voiced their concerns that Mr Hunt may ‘dilute’ clinical commissioning.

Despite the wave criticism Mr Lansley faced over his handling of the controversial Health and Social Care Actreforms, GP commissioners praised the architect of the reforms, and insisted Mr Hunt had a lot to prove. 

The warnings came as details emerged of Mr Hunt’s opposition to local reconfigurations in his Surrey constituency, his personal intervention to speed up takeover of community services in his constituency by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Care, and his support for homeopathy on the NHS.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of NHS Alliance, interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, told Pulse he feared clinical commissioning could be ‘diluted’ under the watch of the new health secretary.

‘Andrew Lansley was the most ferocious advocate for GP commissioning that we ever had’, he said.

‘I am concerned that a secretary of state who doesn’t have a tough grasp might let that slip and might give into the vested interests that oppose GP commissioning.

Dr Dixon added: ‘My real fear is that the secretary of state might dilute GP commissioning and that we might end up with dispirited reforms. I hope he doesn’t give into those pressures.’

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of Family Doctor Association, and a GP in Swindon, said Mr Hunt faced an ‘enormous challenge’.

‘We didn’t all agree with what Andrew Lansley he did, but he was a very competent man who understood and knew the health service even if people didn’t like him,’ he said.

‘Jeremy Hunt has a lot to prove. The challenge to him in the early days will be to make the right contacts and realise he has got to engage with the profession in a way that Lansley did.

‘It will be interesting to see if he goes in a different direction and he brings bigger changes or if he is just a puppet. I just hope he is not a placebo health secretary’.

Dr Paul Charlson, a GP in East Yorkshire, and close adviser to Mr Lansley as chair of Conservative Health, admitted the reforms could have been ‘packaged better’.

‘I think it was time for a change, which is no reflection on Andrew Lansley. The person that pushes something like this through is always seen as the bad guy which is a reality of life.’

But he added: ‘With a change of face the dynamic can change. There will be potential for a different relationship which can improve the situation, or make it worse.’