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Private firms set to join NHS Board

By Alisdair Stirling

Exclusive: Private company bosses are set to be handed seats on the new NHS Commissioning Board with powers to oversee GP contracts, Pulse has learned.

The board, which takes shadow form as a special health authority in June, will commission all primary care services as well as allocating budgets to consortia and holding GPs to account for outcomes and financial performance.

Pulse understands it has already been decided that the board will include a wide range of representatives with those from private providers sitting alongside more members of the traditional NHS family.

But the move has prompted warnings over the risk of serious conflicts of interest, with the possibility that representative companies could help oversee the award of contracts for which they are bidders.

Dr James Kingsland, national clinical commissioning network lead at the Department of Health and president of the National Association for Primary Care emphasised the composition of the board had yet to be determined, but confirmed private-sector representation was on the cards: ‘It’s a possibility. We need more of a collective approach.’

Information supplied to Pulse suggests this collective approach will include inviting private companies onto to the board, even though ministers are aware of the sensitivities involved.

Private providers would be keen to have a presence on the board. Dr Mark Hunt, Care UK’s managing director for healthcare, said: ‘We would be delighted, were we approached, to consider an invitation to contribute to the improvement of health and social care.’

But Dr Paul Hobday, a GP in Maidstone, Kent, said: ‘Andrew Lansley is inviting the vultures into the camp. For the board to be run by private companies is a disgrace because they have the most to gain and won’t be keen to regulate themselves.’

The Department of Health has already advertised for a chair, who will oversee the appointment of non-executive directors and other members of the board, to be led by outgoing NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.

Dr Kingsland said the board would also need beefed-up representation for GPs both at a national and a regional level: ‘We´ll need proper representation for GPs. The board – as one national organisation – can’t possibly administer GP contracts, say in the South West, from London or Leeds. It will need outreach to the regions to problem-solve contractual matters at a local level.’

Private firms set to join NHS Board