By Alisdair Stirling
Exclusive: The Department of Health is poised to announce the third wave of pathfinder consortia within weeks, bringing GP membership of pathfinders to 100% in some areas of the country, Pulse can reveal.
Pulse understands that the next cohort of GP consortia have been told they will take on pathfinder status as early as 1 April. So far, 141 consortia have become pathfinders in the previous two waves of the scheme and pathfinders already cover 50% of patients in England.
The news has fuelled concerns that the Government’s NHS reforms are no longer being piloted and that the DH is driving the changes forward before the legislation to enable them has been passed by Parliament. Emerging evidence suggests the third wave will bring pathfinder membership among GP practices to saturation level.
NHS North East – where 56% of GP practices are already members of five pathfinder consortia – will announce a further nine pathfinders ‘in the next few months’ taking membership up to 100%, an SHA spokesperson told Pulse.
All practices in London are on schedule to join pathfinder consortia by June or July, Pulse understands, with applications being processed on a monthly basis. A spokesperson for NHS London said: ‘Applications keep coming in and we’re processing them on a rolling basis.’
Launching the health bill last month, health secretary Andrew Lansley insisted the reforms were being properly road-tested, and used the term ‘pilots’ to describe pathfinder consortia, a word the Government initially shied away from when first announcing the scheme last October.
But GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the term pathfinder was now a ‘misnomer’, and warned the latest waves amounted to an accelerated re-organisation of the NHS in advance of the health bill being passed.
‘To call these pathfinders in the sense of being optional pilots is misleading,’ he said. ‘We are seeing an adoption by GPs on a pragmatic basis because they are seeing their PCTs imploding, and staff disappearing.’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul Map