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RCGP to recruit independent panel of GPs to review controversial Darzi centre case

The RCGP is set to be tasked with appointing doctors to an independent panel charged with reviewing controversial PCT plans to close a Darzi centre at the centre of a ‘conflict of interest' row, under recommendations tabled by the NHS's competition watchdog.

The NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel (CCP) has recommended that the RCGP or NHS Clinical Commissioning Community appoint doctors to an independent panel of clinicians that will review NHS Peterborough's controversial move to close a local Darzi centre. The CCP ruled last month that the PCT had breached conflict of interest rules by involving GP commissioners in a consultation on the closure of the Alma Road surgery – on the grounds their practices and other provider interests stood to benefit from the decision.

The CCP said any doctors appointed to the independent committee would have no links to the providers affected by NHS Peterborough's proposed shake-up of primary care or previous involvement in the consultation. The watchdog's recommendations, which will now be considered by the Secretary of State, also include a recommendation for NHS Peterborough to introduce  new measures to avoid future conflict of interests. The PCT will be forced to agree the new measures with NHS West Midlands and East SHA and inform the regulator when they are implemented.

Announcing its recommendation, the CCP also issued a stark warning that commissioners ‘need to manage conflicts of interest' in the wake of the NHS Peterborough case.

Catherine Davies, director of the CCP, said: ‘Commissioners are expected to involve local clinicians in service reconfiguration processes but also to ensure that the clinicians are involved in an appropriate way. Commissioners need to manage potential conflicts of interest where the input of local clinicians is sought.'

The CCP's report states: ‘The CCP concluded that it would be appropriate for either the RCGP or the NHS Clinical Commissioning Community to appoint a panel of independent clinicians…The RCGP told us that while the RCGP itself could not carry out such a review it could recruit a suitable panel of GPs to undertake this work if an appropriate role specification was provided.'

The RCGP told the watchdog that Collingham Healthcare Education Centre (CHEC), a not-for-profit social enterprise offering training and education support to primary care providers, could also be drafted in to assist the college in appointing members to the panel.

The case was brought after 3Well Medical, the GP-led limited company that runs the Darzi centre, alleged Dr Mike Caskey, chair of NHS Peterborough's GP commissioning committee, was one of two clinicians involved in the consultation with ‘vested financial interests' in the centre's closure as his own practice could benefit.

NHS Peterborough said it accepted the CCP's recommendations, but stressed that managers do not believe there has been ‘any actual conflict of interest' and said the CCP ‘have accepted this view'.

Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive of NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough said:‘[We] understand that there might have been a perception of conflict of interest and accept the CCP recommendation that NHS Peterborough put in place measures to manage potential conflicts of interest in future and that we work further to engage independent clinicians outside the Peterborough area. We accept these recommendations and will work to ensure that development of primary and urgent care services in Peterborough can be progressed with this further assurance.

‘It is important to state that we do not believe that there has been any actual conflict of interest and that the clinicians we involved in answering questions from the public have not profited in any way from this process and we are pleased that the CCP have accepted this view.'