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GPs lacking faith in CCG leaders

GPs lack confidence in their local clinical commissioning group (CCG) to a handle on NHS budgets, and are concerned that its board members may be compromised by conflict of interest, a new survey reveals.

Just 26% of GPs who responded to a new survey said they had confidence in their CCG’s leaders to successful control commissioning finances, and only 16% felt they were confident or very confident that they themselves had the skills and training to take on commissioning responsibilities.

The survey of 400 GPs, conducted by Pulse and commissioned by management consultancy Kurt Salmon and solicitors DMH Stallard, also found 47% of respondents had concerns over conflicts of interest among CCG leaders, compared with 37% who were not concerned.

Some 37% of GPs complained that their CCG leaders were not involving the grassroots sufficiently in their decisions, although 47% did feel they had been adequately consulted.

Survey respondent Dr Anne-Marie Houlder, a GP in Stafford,  said many CCGs would be inheriting debt and block contracts from PCTs, so it was ‘not surprising’ doctors had doubts about any new regime being able to control finances successfully.

Dr Houlder said: ‘It is a myth that CCGs will be starting with a clean sheet. The truth is that many CCGs will be starting with debts and block contracts inherited from PCTs so we are already starting with a negative. I think that may have a big impact on people answering that question by questioning the ability of CCG leaders to control finances.’

Some 49% of respondents said they understood their local CCG was inheriting block contracts from PCTs that would make it difficult to control finances, with only 8% saying this was not their understanding.

Dr Charles Alessi, a GP in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, and chair elect of the National Association of Primary Care, said transparency was the key to easing lingering concerns over conflict of interest: ‘As long as it is clear that moving a service from a hospital into the community for the benefit of the population and we are open about it then there shouldn’t be a problem. In some respects it will be less of a problem than it has been in the past because I think things will be more openly.’

Dr Alessi added that the survey results indicated a ‘clear need’ for further training for GPs on commissioning.