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More GPs to hold budgets with commercial sector under Tory-led Governmment, health economist forecasts

By Gareth Iacobucci

An increasing number of GPs will hold joint commissioning budgets with large commercial firms under the new coalition Government, a leading health economist has forecast.

Zack Cooper, researcher for LSE Health at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and author of a pre-election paper on NHS spending, predicted GPs will increasingly enter into partnerships with the independent sector when the new Tory-led coalition hands them commissioninng responsibility.

The Tories have pledged to write commissioning responsibility into the GP contract, although the precise nature of how the plans will work following their coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats have yet to emerge.

But Mr Cooper told Pulse he expected large corporate firms to take a far more prominent role in determining how NHS cash is spent under the new administration, given that not all GPs had the capacity or the inclination to manage real budgets on their own.

He said: ‘You've got some very entrepreneurial GPs who are very ambitious and eager. But others don't want any part of it. If you shift over a lot of money towards them, one of the things that's going to have to be thought about is what happens if you've got a GP who isn't interested in this.

He added: ‘I think that [GPs working with companies] is very likely. One of the things we will see is companies coming and helping to manage GP practices. Some GPs want to do it themselves, some don't. So the ones who don't will say: ‘let's bring in somebody else. I'll focus on the medicine, you focus on doing the commissioning'.

‘I think we're going to see some of the larger companies who have more experience coming in and competing.'

Mr Cooper said handing GPs more commissioning power was one of the key levers to meeting the NHS's daunting task of delivering £15-20bn of efficiency savings by 2014.

He said: ‘It's high time we say, we're going to got value for money for what we put in. GPs already have a very important role dictating where the money goes. Making that much more explicit and giving them much more control will be very important.'

GPs will be handed commissioning responsibility under Tory plans for the NHS GPs will be handed commissioning responsibility under Tory plans for the NHS