By Ian Quinn
Labour MPs have criticised the Government for allowing GPs to take banker-style bonuses under their plans for rewarding successful GP consortia.
Stepping up their campaign against the health bill in a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, opposition MPs attacked plans for GP consortia to receive so-called 'quality premiums', if they improve health outcomes or hit financial targets to be set by the new NHS commissioning board.
The payments, set out in the health bill last week, will allow the board to make payments at the end of each year to consortia who ‘perform well', with payments able to be paid up front.
But Labour seized on the payments, with the winner of this month's Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, Debbie Abrahams, making her maiden Common's question, asking: 'Isn't this the worst kind of excess? We don't want to see it in out banking system; we certainly don't want to see it in our NHS.'
Health secretary Andrew Lansley responded by saying GPs had been paid partly on the basis of quality of outcomes method for years.
‘The commissioning consortia, in the same way, if they deliver improving outcomes for patients that should be recognised in their overall reward as well,' he said.
However, shadow health secretary John Healey claimed in reality GP consortia would be run by big business.
He told the Commons: ‘If they are going to carry on being family doctors then planning, negotiating, managing and monitoring hundreds of commissioning contracts is not going to be done by GPs, it'll be done in their name, either by the people doing it now in primary care trusts or by big health companies that are already hard selling this service to new GP consortia.'
He claimed the ‘true purpose' of the changes was to open up all parts of the NHS to private firms.
‘Isn't this NHS reorganisation like an iceberg, with the substantial ideological bulk being kept out of public sight?' he said.
Mr Lansley said the purpose of the bill was to ‘improve quality and raise standards throughout the health service', adding: ‘We are going to support them [GPs] in taking clinical leadership in designing services for patients and bringing the best management support to bear in doing that.'
He insisted the changes would ensure a level playing field for competition.Labour is seeking to portray GPs as getting 'bankers' style bonuses' Labour is seeking to portray GPs as getting 'bankers' style bonsues'