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Senates to become ‘creatures’ of NHS Commissioning Board

The Government has indicated that clinical senates set up to oversee GP commissioning decisions will sit within the NHS Commissioning Board, despite strong opposition from a wide range of GP representative bodies.

The BMA, NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care have all called for senates to be established within clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), to remove ‘unnecessary bureaucracy' and ensure GPs can take the lead on local commissioning decisions.

But speaking in this week's health bill debate, health minister Lord Howe said: ‘The NHS Commissioning Board, led by Sir David Nicholson, will be a new body, but it will draw on the best aspects of a range of departing organisations.'

'We envisage that it will host the existing clinical networks and the new advisory clinical senates.'

The health minister's intervention comes despite the BMA revealing it had lobbied health secretary Andrew Lansley for the senates to be run by CCGs.

Its latest commissioning newsletter said: ‘The BMA has written to the Secretary of State stating strongly that clinical senates should be hosted by CCGs in order to ensure that the valuable support and advice they will provide is tailored to local needs and not rendered distant by unnecessary bureaucracy.'

‘Until more detail is known about these proposals, the value these bodies will bring to the NHS, patients or the profession, remains uncertain.'

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of NHS Alliance, said: ‘In an ideal situation, senates would be housed within CCGs. I have a horrible feeling they will become the creatures of a national centralist commissioning board.'