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GP commissioning concerns ‘may grow’

16 April 2012

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GP concerns over NHS reforms may grow this year thanks to CCG authorisation difficulties, it is claimed. 

Chief Executive of the King’s Fund, Professor Chris Ham said the majority of GPs have no opinion on clinical commissioning “one way or the other”, preferring to “keep their heads down and focus on their clinical commitments”. 

The government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill finally passed into law after gaining Royal Assent on the 27 March.

The legislation – introduced into Parliament in July 2010 – aims to reduced bureaucracy in the NHS by handing over £65bn of public money to GPs to commission care and services for their local population.

Londonwide LMC CEO Dr Michelle Drage said GPs are now “resigned” to the changes happening in the health service and will “make the service work”.

Professor Ham is slightly more pessimistic.

He doubts a ‘let’s just get on with it’ mentality will evolve as the CCG authorisation phase – due to begin this summer – will cause GP concerns over the reforms to grow.

“The government has got a real job on its hands to win the hearts and minds of the GP community because they are going to be central to making the reforms work,” he said.

Dr Drage said while the government claims it has tried to offer GPs reassurance over their fears of the legislation; there is still little confidence in its ‘no privitisation’ argument. 

“GPs need to see really effective change in the way commissioning is done, so when patients come to see their GP, their experience and outcomes in both secondary and community care are joined up, more humane and better communicated,” she said.

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs still hold a degree of sceptism over what they are being asked to do under the legislation, the resources they will have to do it, and how much freedom they will be given to commission.

“Since the passing of the bill, GPs have been hit by the full realisation of the task in hand,” she said.

“This, coupled with their already enormous workload, means they are heaving under the pressure.”

Professor Ham said CCG leaders must ensure they do not get too far ahead of the ‘rank and file’ GPs who are more concerned with focusing on their clinical work.

“If the 2% of GPs tasked with setting up CCGs do not do what they have to do to ensure all GPs are on board with clinical commissioning, it will be a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Furthermore, Dr Drage fears CCGs will not be given the freedom they need to make the necessary changes to the system – forcing them to remain ‘parochial’.

By Louise Naughton