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GPs forced into pathfinders

By Laura Passi

Exclusive: PCTs have been accused of ghostwriting consortium applications for GP pathfinder status by LMC leaders, who say managers are making a mockery of Government claims that GP sign-up to the pathfinder programme is evidence of broad support for its reforms.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has reiterated with each wave of pathfinders announced that it displays evidence that GPs are behind his plans. However, Lancashire and Cumbria Consortium of LMCs has rejected that assertion, and claimed that locally applications for pathfinder status have been ghostwritten by PCT staff in a bid to win ‘brownie points'.

Chief executive Dr Peter Higgins told Pulse: ‘The whole pathfinder process is more to do with PCTs getting brownie points than anything about shadow consortia. Most of the pathfinder applications I'm aware of have been written by somebody in the PCT then run past one or two GPs and sent to the Department of Health.'

In most cases, he said, these applications had only been ‘waved under the nose' of GPs before being sent off and that in one case there had been ‘no genuine involvement' by any GPs.

He added: ‘I am not aware of any applications that are truly owned by the body of GPs in the consortium, and there are 10 or 11 consortia in this area in this position.'

Malcolm Ridgway, medical director at Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, said their application was a 'co-production' between the PCT and the existing GP commissioning committee.

'GPs have a great deal of influence as to how the shadow GP commissioning board should now function, including the application for pathfinder status going forward,' he said.

A spokesperson for NHS Central Lancashire said: 'Both draft applications submitted have been shared via the Cumbria and Lancashire LMC with the wider GP community in each consortium for their suggestions/amendments before final sign off from consortia leaders and submission to the Department of Health.'

A spokesperson for NHS North Lancashire denied they had written their pathfinder applications and a spokesperson from NHS East Lancashire said GPs were 'firmly in the driving seat' in depveloping their application for pathfinder status.

NHS Blackpool was unavailable for comment.

GPs forced into pathfinders