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GP consortia should press ahead, says report

6 June 2011

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A new report highlighting the achievements of front-running consortia has been launched by the NHS Alliance, a membership organisation representing clinicians and managers in primary care.
In an attempt to hit back at negative reports surrounding GP-led commissioning, Making It Better, written by former Guardian journalist John Carvel, details six case studies concerning savings made and patient care improved at consortia identified by the Alliance.
The report was launched last Thursday (26 May) at the King’s Fund by Alliance chairman Dr Mike Dixon.
“With 50% of admissions comprising those over 80, the population getting larger and having 25% more people over 80 in the next 10 years, you begin to see how much of a problem that whole issue of allocating resources is going to be,” Dr Dixon said.
“As GPs we should be upping our game and not turning our back on the fantastic amplified role in terms of changing the health of the population and not just the patient in front of us.”
On case study detailed efforts made by Nene Commissioning in North Hamptonshire, one of the largest and most mature consortia. It set up Pro Active Care (PAC) to identify patients at risk of emergency admissions keeping them out of hospital by providing services that allow them to remain at home.
Since 2008 more than 2,900 vulnerable people have been admitted to the scheme, saving the NHS £985,000. The consortium will have to find £40m in 2011/2012 in efficiency savings and in 2013 will have a budget of £900m transferred to it if the government’s bill proceeds as planned.
In Nottinghamshire, the GP-led commissioning group Principia was set up as a social enterprise, and patients have a majority representation on its board, with control of £200m a year under the current arrangements. But this could be withdrawn at any time. This uncertainty of funding is a major trigger for the Health Bill, according to Mr Carvel and NHS Alliance leaders.
Principia has also made efforts at keeping costly admission rates to hospital low by creating a virtual ward in the community to target high-risk patients. 
Chief Executive of the King’s Fund Chris Ham said that the debate around make or buy, providers and commissioners, needed to be clarified as a complex tendering process may make some GPs “lose enthusiasm” and “walk away”.
NHS Future Forum lead Professor Steve Field praised the report saying it was a good example of GPs in primary care and reiterating his belief that clinical commissioning was the way forward. 
But he remained tight-lipped about a publication date for the anticipated NHS Future Forum report. “I can’t talk about it, I haven’t written the thing yet,” he claimed.
WyvernHealth.Com, Somerset, Baywide, Torbay, Healthworks in Birmingham/Sandwell and North East Essex GP Commissioning Group were also covered in the NHS Alliance report.

How active is your consortium? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Very active and with practice manager input at Board level. We see lots of opportunities for reinstating the links between primary and secondary care so that the patient is at the centre of efficent clinical services” – Name and address withheld