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GP consortiums will take ‘several years’ to make savings

By Lilian Anekwe

The current state of GP commissioning is weak and GPs are likely to take ‘several years' to develop the adequate skills to hold the £80bn purse strings of the NHS, according to a health policy think-tank.

The analysis of the coalition Government's plans for sweeping NHS reforms by the Nuffield Trust dismisses GPs' ability to lead commissioning, and concludes that there is ‘a real concern whether this level of reform can be implemented without risk of major failure'.

The proposals in the White Paper ‘carry significant risks' the report warns, as PCT commissioning is weak and GP commissioning consortia are likely to take several years to develop adequate skills for the job.'

Pulse recently revealed that a quarter of GPs have already begun to spearhead the takeover of commissioning by entering into talks with their PCTs in order to increase take on more commissioning responsibilities.

But the report claims that GP consortiums will lack the financial nous to take on the role, as they are ‘used to acting as small businesses, not large conglomerates handling millions of pounds.'

‘To make efficient savings in the NHS and improve quality, it is widely recognised that more effort should be made to prevent costly hospital care where avoidable, through integrated care.

‘The ability of underdeveloped GP consortiums to make these changes, in part through commissioning negotiations with hospitals, is very doubtful in the short term.

‘This poses the considerable risk that consortiums are unable to manage demand within the budget allocated, and incur deficits.'

The White Paper and the new NHS Operating Framework scrapped a raft of central targets, including the 48-hour primary care access target and the 18-week referral to treatment target. But the Nuffield Trust's paper called for waiting times to remain as ‘firm targets' because of the ‘miserable history of long waiting times in the NHS in the past.'

‘Waiting is an iconic issue in the NHS and central performance management with targets has proved the most effective was of reducing waiting times in the NHS in England.'

GPs expressed similar concerns in a Pulse survey of over 400 GPs, where over two thirds said they feared scrapping the 18-week target for hospital treatment would lead to rising waiting times.

GPs will have to reduce hospital activity to make savings More on GP commissioning at the NAPC Annual Conference

A top line-up of expert speakers – including Sir David Nicholson, Mark Britnell and Stephen Dorrell MP - will be addressing the latest developments in GP commissioning at the NAPC Annual Conference in Birmingham in October.

To find out more and book your place today please click here.

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