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Two-thirds of GP commissioning groups fear they will inherit debt

Two-thirds of GP commissioners believe they will inherit debts run up by PCTs when they are handed full commissioning budgets from April 2013, a new survey has revealed.

The poll by the NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care also found that a third of clinical commissioning groups feel under pressure from their PCT cluster to become larger in order to pass a ‘viability test' next month.

The survey of 128 senior GPs and CCG leaders lays bare the widespread concerns among fledgling commissioning groups about the deficits they may inherit.

Although the Government has pledged that CCGs will not be responsible for resolving PCT legacy debt that arose prior to April 2011, in a victory for Pulse's A Clean Slate campaign, just 27% said they were confident their CCG would not have to deal with inherited debt.

The results also suggest commissioning enthusiasts are being frustrated in their attempts to take the reins from PCTs and implement change locally.

Nine in ten of respondents said they felt engaged with the Government's QIPP agenda, but 50% said they did feel liberated in being able to commission services as they see fit within the resources available.

A third of respondents said their CCG had not been fully involved in shaping the commissioning support they receive locally, while almost half (46%) felt their CCG was being restricted in the support they are able to access.

Of those that said they felt restricted, 60% said they were only being offered support from their existing PCT cluster, 40% felt  they were being given no choice at all, while 47% said they were not being made aware of all the possible choices.

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said: ‘It's about how we change that balance of power locally. We want to emancipate ourselves but feel we might be stopped by outside sources.'

NAPC chair Dr Johnny Marshall said: ‘We recognise this is not just about GPs. But it's about us taking a leadership role. Collective responsibility is something we're all signed up to. We just want to be enabled to do it.'

Speaking at the two organisations' joint conference last week, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘The survey doesn't come as a surprise. These are some of the issues we are working on and trying to make sure they don't get in the way.'