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NHS England invites CCGs to bid for primary care commissioning role

NHS England will invite CCGs to express interest if they want to commission primary care in their area, it has announced.

Under the plans, CCGs are being asked to come forward with their suggestions for how they would use these commissioning powers to improve care in their area and help to keep it sustainable.

Speaking at the NHS Clinical Commissioners conference in London this afternoon, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said this would help to ‘properly resource’ primary care.

Earlier this week, Mr Stevens told the House of Commons health committee that handing CCGs part of the primary care commissioning role is one of his first priorities in his new post.

Mr Stevens, who replaced Sir David Nicholson at the helm of NHS England earlier this month, said that the opportunities for CCGs to ‘drive change’ in the NHS have been partly unrealised because they don’t commission primary care.

Since being revealed by Pulse last year, NHS England’s plans to hand CCGs a role in primary care commissioning have come under fire from the BMA, who have said that it would result in conflicts of interest and mean GPs in CCGs would have to performance-manage their own contracts.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Stevens said: ‘If we want to better integrate care outside hospitals, and properly resource primary, community and mental health services – at a time when overall funding is inevitably constrained – we need to make it easier for patients, local communities and local clinicians to exercise more clout over how services are developed.’

‘That means giving local CCGs greater influence over the way NHS funding is being invested for their local populations. As well as new models for primary care, we will be taking a hard look at how CCGs can have more impact on NHS England’s specialised commissioning activities.’

‘So today I am inviting those CCGs that are interested in an expanded role in primary care to come forward and show how new powers would enable them to drive up the quality of care, cut health inequalities in primary care, and help put their local NHS on a sustainable path for the next five years and beyond.’

‘CCGs are still young organisations at different stages of development, and with different local needs. So rather than specifying a one-size-fits all solution, and having listened carefully to what CCGs have been saying, I’m keen to hear from CCGs themselves about what next steps they would like to explore.’

‘I’m going to be asking those of you who are interested in that, what powers and responsibilities you’d like to assume. As well as how you’re going to meet a number of tests, like showing that this will help advance care integration, raise standards, cut inequalities in primary care, and ensure transparent and fair governance.’

Also speaking at today’s NHSCC conference, health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to tackle clinical commissioners’ concerns over competition regulation.

He said: ‘The things that you talk about that make your life difficult, the concerns over section 75, the competition issues, we will sort those things out. Because the purpose of the (Health and Social Care) Bill was to put local doctors in control of local budgets and we will make sure that we deliver.’

NHSCC co-chair Dr Steve Kell said the next step would be for CCGs ‘to decide what they want to do with primary care, what the priorities are and how the can deliver their vision’.

He said: ‘We welcome the announcement that primary care will be commissioned much more by CCGs in future, however we do need to make sure we have the resources to do it. Whether that is through better working the [NHS England] area team, we need to make sure CCGs have the tools to do the job properly.’

He also welcomes Mr Hunt’s commitment to clarifying competition regulatoins, saying: ‘There is still a lack of clarity around competition rules.’

Dr Sam Everington, RCGP Council member and a GP in Bow in east London, said: ‘They are once more bringing together commissioning. I think in almost any circle you talk about this – whether it’s Government, opposition or anyone else – there is this kind of acknowledgement that the breaking up of commissioning, the breaking into bundles hasn’t been a success, and the expression that keeps on being given is the need to commission for a population.’

In March, the Department of Health released plans for CCGs to form ‘joint committees’ with local area teams to commission care in their local area.