By Gareth Iacobucci
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has insisted that his controversial NHS reforms are being piloted sufficiently, claiming the Government's pathfinder programme is evidence he has listened to GPs' concerns about the pace of the plans.
But the Government have adopted some caution in pushing through the reforms by handing the NHS Commissioning Board the power to delay full transfer of responsibility to GP consortia in 2013 if GPs are not ready to assume full control.
The Government's Health and Social Care bill, published yesterday, gives the new board the power to manage commissioning activity beyond April 2013 or put management in place if consortia are not in position to take the full reigns.
But Mr Lansley said he expected most consortia to be ready by this point, and issued a robust defence of the Government's two year timescale for full implementation.
Launching the bill, Mr Lansley insisted that his reforms were being properly road tested, openly using the term ‘pilots' to describe consortia pathfinders, a word the Government initially shied away from when first announcing the scheme last October.
He said: ‘In the consultation, we listened [to respondents]. They called for a greater sense of piloting for GP commissioning consortia. We delivered that. Consortia will have two years to shape what is happening.'
Mr Lansley added: ‘If GP commissioning consortia are not ready to take on responsibility, the NHS Commissioning Board will have powers to manage commissioning activity beyond that point [April 2013] or put management in place'.
But he added: ‘I am confident [that consortia will be ready]. We were very clear we wanted this pace of change. The NHS is not in a position to allow the opportunity to improve outcomes to be lost for any longer.'
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