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Dozens of consortia turn to McKinsey

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: Dozens of GP consortia have enlisted the support of controversial private consultancy firm McKinsey on key areas of commissioning, including the QIPP efficiency drive, budget holding and governance, Pulse can reveal.

The firm is supporting at least 25 consortia across England in taking forward GP commissioning, as it seeks to establish itself as a leading player in a potentially lucrative market to advise GPs on how to spend NHS cash. GPs’ involvement with McKinsey is likely to raise eyebrows, after the firm played a leading role in advising NHS London on a number of contentious policies, including moves to reduce GP appointment times to save money.

NHS managers have also enlisted another consultancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to help decide whether GP consortia are fit to take on their cut of the £80bn NHS commissioning budget.

PwC is designing a national checklist to ensure consortia have suitable governance, management structures and support before budgets are handed over – with the firm already signing deals with ‘a number’ of PCTs and SHAs to offer commissioning support, and in dialogue with trusts across the country.

A spokesperson for McKinsey said the firm was supporting ‘more than two dozen’ consortia on commissioning and working ‘intensively with individual pathfinders’. It is also running a national learning network for a dozen consortia, and every single pathfinder in one SHA.

The spokesperson said: ‘We have tested approaches that address vision and strategy, QIPP, delegated budgets, commissioning capabilities, governance, leadership, engagement of stakeholders and patients, and starting up their operations.’

Pulse has also learned SHAs have been inviting private companies to display their credentials to advise commissioners at ‘market testing days’, as NHS managers try to get consortia up to speed during the transition.

Dr Jonathan Steel, a GP in Uley, Gloucestershire, and senior clinical consultant to PwC, said the firm was advising GPs on leadership, organisational delivery and governance, and was in talks around providing contracting and procurement support.

He said the competency framework could be rolled out nationally to ensure consortia were ready to take on real budgets: ‘Every consortium will have to demonstrate certain competencies if it is to be handed a significant amount of money.’

But Dr Paul Hobday a GP in Maidstone, Kent, called for more transparency in how contracts to advise on commissioning were awarded: ‘The policy of the moment is “if it moves, privatise it”. All contracts should be transparent, and accounts published in full, as profits come from taxpayers’ money.’

The end of the NHS

Dr Paul Hobday, a GP in Maidstone, lays out his fears over the NHS reforms for both patients and the profession

Dr Paul Hobday