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No time to lose in joining commissioning consortiums, GPs warned

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs should move to get their commissioning consortiums up and running as soon as possible, the NHS Alliance has urged, warning that 'time is of the essence'.

The Government has stipulated that all GP practices must join consortiums by the autumn of 2012, with all groups due to be funded directly by the new independent Commissioning Board from April 2013, as ministers implement their radical overhaul of the NHS.

The NHS Alliance today urged GPs to join new partnerships as soon as possible, warning that consortiums must be formed immediately if GPs are to have any chance of being up to speed ahead of the changes.

But the call is likely to set the Alliance on a collision course with the GPC, which has warned the profession not to rush headlong into the changes, and to sit tight until the committee has discussed the policy details with the Government.

Speaking today at the NHS Alliance/APEX North East PBC Regional Event, which is hosting 180 GPs, practice managers, PBC leads and managers, NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon echoed the GPC's call for GPs and managers to work together to make sense of the changes.

‘GP commissioners and PCTs need to support each other,' he said.

‘The new set up will work best where there are arrangements for strong partnerships between GP consortia and PCTs, which will be invaluable in terms of sharing their skills and expertise in how to cope with budgets, as well as statutory and other management responsibilities.'

He added: ‘Time is also of essence. We need to get this off the ground as quickly as possible. As with flying, we will need many flying hours before we are confident and prepared to go solo in 2013.'

Dr Dixon also pointed out the importance of getting the details of future commissioning arrangements right, warning that a failure to overcome ‘the dead hand of bureaucracy' will see clinicians turning their back on the changes.

‘It will be crucial, for instance, to ensure we have proper governance, especially where GP commissioning decisions might advantage providing practices within a GP consortium and fuel self interest,' he said.

'However, we must make the system fluid so that we can allow future GP consortia to carry out ‘make or buy' decisions within reason as a means of rapid redesign and moving services from secondary to primary care. The processes of procurement must be streamlined so that the right decisions can be made and implemented quickly. Otherwise, clinicians and patients will walk away.'

Dr Michael Dixon: 'Time is of essence' Dr Michael Dixon: 'Time is of essence'