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Health bill sets out small print of GP commissioning revolution

By Steve Nowottny

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has published draft legislation putting GPs at the heart of the most far-reaching reforms of the NHS for 60 years, warning change is a 'necessity not an option'.

The 367-page Health and Social Care Bill contains an unprecedented level of detail about the Government's controversial plans for GP commissioning will work in practice, while a 165-page impact assessment published at the same time for the first time puts a price tag on the reforms.

The assessment predicts the reforms will cost a total of up to £1.5bn, much of that due to redundancy costs at PCTs and SHAs, but estimates that up to £8.8bn could be saved by reducing the cost of commissioning across the health service.

The bill itself indicates that the NHS Commissioning Board will be granted wide-ranging powers to help determine the structure and shape of GP consortia - and could end up parachuting in private providers to help run those that are deemed to be failing.

The BMA immediately issued a strongly-worded response to the bill, saying that it supports the greater involvement of clinicians in planning NHS services, but warning the reforms as they stand are a 'massive gamble'.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'The benefits that clinician-led commissioning can bring are threatened by other parts of the bill. In particular, the legislation will allow competition to be forced on commissioners, even when they believe the best and most appropriate services can be provided by local hospitals.'

'Forcing commissioners of care to tender contracts to any willing provider, including NHS providers, voluntary sector organisations and commercial companies, could destabilise local health economies and fragment care for patients.'

To read further coverage of the health bill and its implications for GPs, please visit our Health and Social Care Bill 2011 page.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has published the draft Health and Social Care Bill Health secretary Andrew Lansley has published the draft Health and Social Care Bill Seminar

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