Exclusive: The RCGP's flagship Centre for Commissioning has been forced by funding constraints to dramatically curtail its activities and end contracts with dozens of GPs picked as ‘commissioning champions'.
Commissioning leaders involved with the centre said it had been ‘scaled back' and effectively ‘dead in the water' for several months, with one suggesting the college's opposition to the health bill had made it impossible to attract sufficient funding.
The cash shortages come despite it emerging the RCGP earned around £10,000 for the centre through a controversial partnership with management consultancy McKinsey.
The Centre for Commissioning was established in October 2010 to provide GPs and clinical commissioning groups with training and educational support.
It was initially funded with a £1.7 million grant from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, which ended last September. Since then the centre has been funded as part of the college's 'central core business', although it continues to have a 'call-off' contract with the Department of Health for specific training activities.
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada insisted the centre was still a 'going concern', but admitted it had been 'hampered' in delivering commissioning support by fierce competition from private firms.
Last October London CCGs signed a £7m deal for 'organisational support' with a shortlist of providers including KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Capita and the RCGP-McKinsey partnership.
Neither the RCGP nor McKinsey would confirm the value, if any, of work done for London CCGs. But Dr Gerada told Pulse: 'Most of the resources for commissioning development went into the coffers of big private consultancies such as KPMG. In London alone £7 million of funding has gone into those companies.'
Some of the centre's commissioning champions said they had received emails at the end of last year informing them the centre's work was being scaled back due to economic constraints.
Russell Vine, chair of the NHS Practice Management Network, said the scheme had 'contracted down' after losing funding: 'My impression was the scheme was dead in the water because of the RCGP's opposition to the bill.'
Kathie Applebee, a commissioning consultant with Practice Consultancy Services, said: ‘It has been scaled down. We were reimbursed for attending meetings but not now as there aren't any.'
Dr Brian Fisher, a GP in south London, said he was still involved but 'not being paid any more', while Exeter GP Dr Jonathan Stead said: 'I don't know what's happening.'
The RCGP said the centre's 52 champions ‘were contracted for the initial phase', and that it had surveyed champions earlier this month, and was 'delighted' 30 GPs had already agreed to continue on an honorary basis.
It added: ‘The Centre for Commissioning remains active and buoyant.'
RCGP's £10k deal with McKinsey
The RCGP for the first time this week disclosed details of the deal between McKinsey and the Centre for Commissioning, which saw the partnership compete to provide organisational support to London CCGs.
An RCGP spokesperson said the deal involved GPs being paid around £500 a day to cover backfill and locum fees, for which they invoiced McKinsey directly, and the college also charged £250 to cover administrative costs.
The spokesperson said: 'The College has not yet received any reimbursement for the work with McKinsey but we expect this to be in the region of £10k which will be ploughed back into providing resources such as workshops and briefing guides for working GPs.'
The pilot deal with McKinsey comes to an end this spring. McKinsey declined to comment.