A doctors’ union has warned that government promises to offer GPs freedom over buying services for patients may prove a hollow pledge.
The British Medical Association (BMA) claims that the NHS reforms may result in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and a new NHS Commissioning Board being given powers that are “overly restrictive and controlling”.
However health minister Simon Burns rejected the claims, describing them as “nonsense”.
MPs are currently debating the Health and Social Care Bill, which could lead to up to 80% of the NHS budget being handed to family doctors.
Doctors are forming groups – “consortia” – to deal with commissioning services.
Clauses in the Bill contradict government pledges to put doctors “in the driving seat” and may stop them from improving patient care, according to the BMA.
The union fears that the NHS Commissioning Board, which will oversee commissioning of services, will not be able to operate autonomously and free from political control.
Mr Lansley would also be able to impose “any conditions on consortia without review”, according to the BMA.
The NHS Commissioning Board could dismiss a consortium’s Accountable Officer and could dissolve a consortia without consultation.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “The NHS Commissioning Board will be given sweeping powers to get involved with the way consortia operate.
“Time and time again in the Bill we see no mention of the need to consult consortia on matters that will have a direct and potentially very significant impact on the way they operate.
“And when it comes to the dissolution of a consortium, the most serious act of all, there is no requirement to consult the consortium or the public, and no recourse for appeal.”
Dr Buckman said there were concerns about how restrictive the Bill is.
As it stands, Mr Lansley and the commissioning board “are being granted powers that are far too wide-ranging and seem to go against the promise to devolve power to local clinicians,” he said.
Health minister Simon Burns said: “This is nonsense.
“The Bill gives GPs power to purchase and design services on behalf of their patients in a way that isn’t possible at present.
“It also restricts, for the first time, the discretion of ministers to interfere in day-to-day decisions in the NHS.”
Copyright © Press Association 2011