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Give GP commissioners five-year budgets, says NHS Future Forum

The NHS Commissioning Board should hand GP commissioners budgets covering three to five years in order to provide clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) with the stability to commission integrated care, the NHS Future Forum has said.

The advisory panel's call for CCGs to be handed ‘multi-year settlements' - along the lines of the budgets provided to councils – is one of a raft of recommendations made in the Future Forum's report on its second phase of work.

The report also calls for the Government's forthcoming Information Strategy to ensure GPs can access hospital discharge summaries on time and to address the ‘financial and time burden' placed on practices by the drive to give all patients access to their records online.

Professor Steve Field, chair of the Future Forum and a GP in Birmingham, said: ‘Instead of timing the CCG budget on a year-by-year basis, if you have some certainty of what the budget would be in a three to five year block you could then start to place contracts in a much more adventurous way.

‘You could start to look across health and social care, across the whole patient's needs and those contracts could look longer and give more certainty to local providers, including those in primary care. It is to try and look at producing a much more stable, integrated system.'

The Future Forum report, which contains recommendations on four workstreams – information, integration, education, and public health - also calls on GPs and other healthcare professionals to ‘make every contact count' by talking to patients about their general health and lifestyle risk factors at every appointment, whatever its purpose.

When trailed in the national press, the policy was met with heavy criticism. RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada told the Guardian the policy was ‘muddled' and warned patients would be put off if ‘lectured' by GPs, while the Patients Association claimed it could lead clinicians to ‘inappropriately badger and lecture patients each time that they see them'.

But Professor Field hit back at the comments, insisting that the forum was not handing out a ‘prescriptive' list of checks for GPs to carry out at every consultation. He told Pulse GPs were ‘generally doing a fantastic job' at preventative healthcare, and the forum's recommendation was designed to ensure other areas of the healthcare profession followed suit.


Watch Professor Steve Field discuss the recommendations in the NHS Future Forum