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GPs may have to inherit some PCT debts, Buckman warns

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GP consortia may have to accept taking on some PCT debts when they assume full commissioning power, but they should not be forced to prop up expensive Darzi centre and PFI contracts, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said this week.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse (watch the video here), the GPC chair insisted PCT debts should be separated into those that ‘inevitably occur as a result of managing patients', which GPs may have to absorb, and those incurred through expensive schemes imposed on local areas like Darzi centres, which GPs should not have to inherit.

The Government's NHS white paper has outlined plans for GP consortia to take on all PCT commissioning functions by April 2013, when both PCTs and SHAs will be disbanded.

The Department of Health said last week it could not guarantee a clean financial slate for consortia when power transfers, heightening fears that GPs could inherit hundreds of millions of pounds worth of debt from cash-strapped trusts.

Dr Buckman acknowledged that GP consortia may have to accept responsibility for some modest debts, but warned the policy would ‘not get off the ground' if they are forced to start from ‘a position of very serious debt'.

He said: ‘There are several kinds of debt. There's the debt that inevitably occurs as a result of managing patients. We can argue whether it should or should not transfer to the new consortia. I think if it did transfer it's something we would have to manage and cope with. I don't have a huge problem with that.'

‘Where I do have a problem is where for example the body of GPs opposed things and are now having them visited on us, like Darzi centres and PFI schemes, that the vast majority opposed.'

‘There is a whole series of things that were brought in by the previous Government that this Government is now reversing, and we're going to be saddled with that debt too? I don't think so.'

He added that consortia should not be responsbile for dealing with PCT debts incurred through brokerage arrangements where some PCTs have propped up neighborughing trusts who had fallen into financial difficulty.

He said: ‘Unless the Government can sort out all of those different kinds of debt, GPs will not want to be involved as much as they would be if they thought the debts were written off.'

‘The policy will not get off the ground if debts are not sorted out. You can't ask GPs to participate in something when they start from a position of very serious debt, some of it almost unachievable.'

Video interview: Dr Laurence Buckman

Dr Laurence Buckman: 'The policy will not get off the ground if debts are not sorted out' Dr Laurence Buckman: 'The policy will not get off the ground if debts are not sorted out'