By Ian Quinn
Giving GPs power over commissioning will shatter the chances of the NHS achieving its £20bn efficiency savings target, according to centre-right think tank Civitas.
Civitas says the coalition Government's White Paper on the NHS, due to be published on Monday and likely to hand as much as £80bn of resources in the NHS from PCTs to GPs, will lead to at least a one year dip in performance in the NHS in absolute terms.
But it also claims it will set the NHS back at least three years relative to what could be achieved without any structural change.
James Gubb, director of the health unit at Civitas, said, 'The NHS is facing the most difficult financial times in its history. Now is not the time for ripping up internal structures yet again on scant evidence base, but for focusing minds on the task ahead and really getting behind the difficult decisions PCTs, as commissioners, will have to make.'
Civitas says if there is a repeat of the drop in performance seen with the merging of PCTs in 2006 - a comparatively minor change compared to health secretary Andrew Lansley's far-reaching plans - the bulk of the proposed £20bn efficiency savings which rely on efficiencies driven by commissioning could be at risk.
Pulse revealed in the run up to the general election that the influencial think tank had severe doubts about the appetite of GPs for commissioning
Now it adds that evidence suggesting GPs will be more effective at commissioning than PCTs is weak, and that GP fundholding in the 1990s, which the new system has widely been compared to, did not bring about expected savings.
Mr Gubb added: 'Ruling out the fiscally implausible possibility of significant extra spending on the NHS, past evidence on restructuring in the NHS suggests any slight blip in Lansley's plans will mean one thing for patients: a return to rationing, either by waiting or by reductions in services.'Lansley's plan will wreck £20bn NHS savings plan, claims think tank What does GP-led commissioning mean for you?
Attend the NAPC Conference on 20 and 21 October in Birmingham for an outline and post-election analysis of the new coalition Government's key health policies, with stimulating expert debates on key issues facing primary care over the next five years.
Click here to find out more