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Fears over transfer of community services as PCTs ordered to press ahead

By Lilian Anekwe

The Government has ordered PCTs to press ahead with plans to transfer community services to other providers, despite GP leaders warning that the policy could ‘seriously hinder' GP commissioning.

The previous Labour Government insisted that primary care trusts split their provider and commissioner arms and transfer the provision of community services to another provider outside primary care by 1 April 2011.

And the Department of Health this week insisted PCTs continue with their plans for outsourcing their community services.

But the NHS Alliance has attacked the policy, saying it has ‘no place' in the NHS of the future, and warned that forcing PCTs into a reorganisation could be a ‘serious impediment' to the implementation of GP commissioning.

Dr Donal Hynes, co-vice chair of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Bridgwater, Somerset, said: ‘The critical issue facing the NHS is delivery of service improvement within budgetary restraint. To achieve this, GP consortiums will need to have community services aligned with primary care services so as to facilitate the transfer of work from acute hospitals.'

‘Allowing community services to be swallowed up by acute trusts will seriously restrict consortium's ability to deliver the QIPP (Quality Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) programme.'

‘It is not only contrary to the direction of the White Paper but also will potentially provide a serious impediment to its implementation.'

Dr David Jenner, the NHS Alliance lead for GMS and PMS practices and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said: ‘The current deadline of April 2011, by when PCTs will no longer be involved in providing these services, is completely unrealistic.'

‘If the new government is serious about creating an NHS that makes sense at local level, then it cannot ignore the fact that community services are going in a complete different direction.'

The call follows a motion passed at the BMA's annual representative meeting in Brighton in June which called on health secretary Andrew Lansley to call a halt to the plans.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Primary care trusts should continue to develop proposals to separate themselves from their directly-provided community services. Final decisions on the future organisation of community services will be made in the light of the future strategic direction for the NHS being developed through the proposed White Paper.'

Dr Donal Hynes: 'GP consortiums will have to be aligned with community services'

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