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Second wave of GP pathfinder consortia to be unveiled next month

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The Government is poised to announce a second wave of 'many more' GP consortia pathfinders as early as next month, its commissioning chief has announced.

The Department of Health's commissioning tsar Dame Barbara Hakin told Pulse that trailblazers who had missed out in the first wave may not have to wait long to be accepted, with new pathfinders likely to be announced in January, and ready to go live as early as February.

She argued that ‘too much had been made' of the identities of the first 52 pathfinders announced by the Government earlier this month, insisting: ‘Nobody needs to be disappointed in any shape or form.'

Her announcement came after pioneering GP commissioners last week accused NHS managers of setting ‘misleading' criteria for selecting consortia for the pathfinder programme, after having their bid turned down in favour of less financially stable groups.

But Dame Barbara said: ‘I think too much has been made that there was something very special about the first pathfinders who were announced. In fact, those pathfinders were announced to be part of a learning network.'

‘I expect the announcement of many more pathfinders very quickly indeed so this is not a situation where the people who weren't announced will wait months. My expectation is that during January we will see significant numbers of other pathfinders announced, who will then go live in February, March or April.'

Dame Barbara also acknowledged the BMA's concerns about key strands of the white paper, including the any willing provider policy, but still insisted that the BMA and the profession's response had been ‘overwhelmingly positive'.

Her claims come despite BMA chiefs launching a double-pronged attack on the Government's plans last week, with BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum accusing health secretary Andrew Lansley of 'charging forward' with his plans, and GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman warning GPs had been left 'extremely disappointed' by the Government's failure to listen to their concerns.

Dame Barbara also rejected the BMA's claims that the Government's competition agenda would prevent constructive co-operation between GPs and hospital doctors.

She said: ‘I acknowledge the BMA's concerns, but it's important to remember that choice is something which patients have made it very clear they want from the service.'

‘We need to be sure that we mitigate against any differences between primary and secondary care providers and commissioners, because it is absolutely obvious that it is equally important for people to work together to co-operate and collaborate together.'

‘There are plenty of instances outside the health service where people who have a degree of competition also work extremely closely together because they have the same interest in mind. All clinical professionals including GPs have a responsibility to work together to recognise the competition policy, but to make sure that operates in an environment of working together.'

‘The mark of a true GP commissioner will be one who involves everyone in the patient pathway.'

Dame Barbara Hakin Do you have the knowledge and expertise to make a success of commissioning?

Attend the Essential Commissioning Skills seminar on 15 February (London) and 03 March (Manchester) to gain advice and guidance to adapt to change and meet the challenges ahead.

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