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Hunt expresses support for future of GP independent contractor status

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken out in support of the GP independent contractor model, which he thinks is ‘benefitting the NHS’.

Speaking yesterday at the RCGP conference, Mr Hunt tore into Labour plans for more GPs to become salaried employees of integrated care organisations, revealed by Pulse last month, saying GPs’ ‘independence and flexibility’ was good for the health service.

He said: ‘I think it would be a big mistake to force GPs to become employees of local hospitals as members of integrated care organisations… The truth is there is no country in the world that has cracked integrated care. It would be a huge mistake to choose one model and force it on everyone. That would feel quite like a reorganisation, which is not a popular thing to do.’

Mr Hunt also said he wanted to increase GPs’ independence by further reducing performance targets and moving money into the global sum element of the GP contract. But in order to do this there had to be a ‘trade off’ with GPs publishing patient outcomes results to be held up to peer review scrutiny.

He said: I think we need to have flexibility but the corollary of flexibility is transparency of outcomes. If you have good data, transparency of outcomes, then it is much easier to give local areas the freedom to innovate, because we’ll always be tracking what the results of that are and we can step in if there are any problems.’

‘I would like to see us move towards a structure where this is a much larger sum of money in the global sum, in return for much greater transparency about patient outcomes. A much better way to improve patient outcomes is through collecting and using data in a smart way that allows intelligent peer review, which I think is a much more powerful way than linking things to contractual targets.’

The news comes as NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens today announced to the same conference plans for hospital consultants to take stakes in GP partnerships in a bid to integrate primary and secondary care. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has suggested GP services are brought under hospital control.