By Nigel Praities
The GPC has issued a strong statement criticising the powers given to ministers in the small print of the health bill, claiming that pledges to empower GPs have not been honoured.
In a statement released today, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the health bill – published in January – gives ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board too much power over consortia and is ‘overly restrictive’.
He claimed GP commissioning will struggle to fulfil its potential if ministers are able to impose any conditions on consortia ‘without review’ and the NHS Commissioning Board is able to dissolve consortia and change consortia areas without consultation.
Dr Buckman said: ‘The NHS Commissioning Board will be given sweeping powers to get involved with the way consortia operate.’
‘Time and time again in the bill we see no mention of the need to consult consortia on matters that will have a direct and potentially very significant impact on the way they operate.’
‘And when it comes to the dissolution of a consortium, the most serious act of all, there is no requirement to consult the consortium or the public, and no recourse for appeal.’
‘We are very concerned about how restrictive the bill is and want to see that, at the very least, there is a duty to consult consortia written into the legislation.’
‘At the moment the Secretary of State and the NHS Commissioning Board are being granted powers that are far too wide-ranging and seem to go against the promise to devolve power to local clinicians.’
Health Minister Simon Burns described the claims as ‘nonsense’. ‘The Bill gives GPs power to purchase and design services on behalf of their patients in a way that isn’t possible at present.
‘It also restricts, for the first time, the discretion of ministers to interfere in day-to-day decisions in the NHS. And it places new legal duties on the Secretary of State and the NHS Commissioning Board to promote autonomy and minimise administrative burdens on the NHS.’
Dr Laurence Buckman What the BMA is concerned about
• The NHS Commissioning Board will not be able to operate autonomously and free from political control.
• The Secretary of State will be able to impose any conditions on consortia without review. While there may be times, such as during a public health emergency, when the Secretary of State needs to direct from the centre, at the moment the wording is unacceptably broad.
• The NHS Commissioning Board will be able to dismiss a consortium’s Accountable Officer2 and bring in a replacement who will not be allowed to come from the local area, thus undermining the importance of local determination.
• The NHS Commissioning Board will be able to dissolve consortia and change consortia areas, without consultation.
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