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Pathfinder GPs reject moves to put hospital consultants on consortium boards

By Edward Davie

Exclusive: GP consortium chairs are overwhelmingly opposed to any requirement to include hospital consultants on their boards, viewing it as a serious conflict of interest that would undermine the commissioning process, finds a Pulse survey.

That view, expressed unanimously by a sample of 20 chairs and chief executives of pathfinder consortia, places GP commissioners at odds with the BMA, the House of Commons Health Committee and possibly even prime minister David Cameron, who has said he expects a much bigger role for consultants.

Pathfinder leaders were also bullish about taking on commissioning responsibilities, with 19 of the 20 saying they wanted to take on responsibility in April 2013, even if it was no longer compulsory to do so.

Some 18 of the 20 consortia surveyed have non-GP representation on their boards, most commonly patients, nurses, practice managers and local council representatives. But only one currently includes a hospital doctor and none of the pathfinder leaders would welcome a requirement to do so if it was introduced to the bill.

Dr Agnelo Fernandes, chair of the Croydon Healthcare Consortium, said: 'That would be ridiculous, a total conflict of interest, as consultants are employees of their trusts which are providers. We need networks to enable good communication, but we want small, manageable boards at GP consortium level.'

Dr Darin Seiger, chair of Nene Commissioning in Northamptonshire, said: 'The relationship between commissioner and provider precludes having secondary care clinicians as full board members.'

Dr Ali Tahmassebi, chair of Langbaurgh Consortium in Redcar and Cleveland, said: 'Which hospital do we choose this consultant from? We use a number of providers. Do we have one from each?'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Our plans to modernise the NHS will improve accountability, ensuring any potential conflicts of interest are dealt with in an open and transparent way.'

Dr Agnelo Fernandes