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One in four practices begin commissioning talks

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: A quarter of GPs have already entered talks with their PCT on increasing their commissioning responsibilities, and a similar proportion have been consulted on their trusts' efficiency plans since the general election, a Pulse survey has found.

In a poll of 351 GPs, 25% said that they had held talks with their PCT about increasing their commissioning role, with 23% saying their practice had been engaged in some form of consultation on their trusts' reconfiguration plans.

The results follow health secretary Andrew Lansley's pledge that any service reconfigurations must have the support of GPs before going ahead, and come after NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson explicitly instructed PCT managers to seek sign-off from GP consortiums on all their commissioning decisions from now on.

In a letter to NHS managers last week, Mr Nicholson wrote: ‘I am asking local GP commissioners, in conjunction with PCTs, to lead this process locally and assure themselves, and their SHAs, that proposals pass each of the tests.'

‘For example, the commissioner could obtain written sign off from relevant local consortia representatives. If this cannot be obtained, commissioners should revisit and, where possible, address any concerns or amend proposals.'

GPs who responded to Pulse's survey acknowledged that the shift of power presented the profession with a huge opportunity to lead change at a local level.

Dr Stewart Findlay, a GP in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: ‘We have moaned for years about our PCTs and their inability to make decisions or implement change. Now it is our turn. We must make this a success.'

And Dr Ravi Mene, a GP in Trafford, Manchester, said: ‘This is an opportunity for GPs to improve the NHS, freed from the shackles of targets and waiting times, and show politicians that we can do things well.'

But Dr Keith Holtom, a GP in Oldbury, West Midlands said: 'Like many of my colleagues I took up medicine and became a GP because I want to treat patients; I have extensive training and expertise in this field.

'I do not however have extensive training in health service management and I most certainly do not relish the prospect of this as I believe that it will mean less time for face to face patient care - and I believe that in a cash strapped NHS the GP will be made a scapegoat as rationing inevitably kicks in.'

Dr Stewart Findlay: 'Now it is our turn. We must make this a success' Dr Stewart Findlay: 'Now it is our turn. We must make this a success'