The chair of the House of Commons Health Committee has written to request a delay to the rollout of the new ‘accountable care’ contract.
This comes as Pulse reported last week that two areas of England are already seeing GPs signing agreements with hospitals to jointly control integrated health and social care budgets.
But health select chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP, said in a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt that she considered that the development of accountable care models has ‘not been well aired publicly up until now’ and should be delayed.
In response Mr Hunt said NHS England will consult on the new contract in the spring, before it is used ‘by any CCG’.
As outlined last year by NHS England, the new accountable care organisations – based on a model popular in the US – will see CCGs, hospital trusts and local authorities ‘take on clear collective responsibility for resources and population health’.
But the BMA has warned, in response to a Government consultation on the regulatory changes needed to implement the contract, that the organisations are putting the NHS on route to privatisation.
And the BMA’s GP Committee has advised GPs that suspending a GMS or PMS contract to join an ACO ‘means giving up the practice and is wholly inadvisable’.
Dr Wollaston said the health committee would be hearing evidence on the issues around ACOs in February and March, with a report to be released ‘after Easter’.
She said: ‘The Committee’s inquiry will provide an opportunity to hear both sides of the arguments around the development of accountable care models, which I consider have not been well aired publicly up until now.’
The health secretary told the select committee this week that he would ‘look at the parliamentary timetable’, but would not confirm any delay to the ACO launch.
He added: ‘What I hope is that your inquiry as a committee will feed into the NHS England consultation so that they can take full account of what you say.’
The ACO contract is also at risk of legal challenge, with four senior health professionals exploring the possibility of a judicial review to ensure parliamentary and public scrutiny of the plans.