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GPs ‘more welcoming’ to private sector

10 November 2011

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Commissioning GPs are “far less culturally inhibited” about working with the private sector, a Department of Health official has claimed.

Jim Easton, national director for improvement and efficiency at the Department of Health, told MiP he has seen evidence GPs are “more welcoming” of the private sector than previous commissioning structures.

“It seems GPs are far less culturally inhibited than PCTs when it comes with the involvement of the private sector in the NHS,” he said.

Easton also said he has been “impressed” with the willingness of GPs to innovate so far.

At the annual Wellards Conference held in the Royal College of Physicians yesterday (9 November), Easton acknowledged there has been a lack of encouragement to innovate from Whitehall.

“Disappointingly, we have failed to grasp the opportunities of dissemination and innovation,” he said.

“We have been too timid and scared to incentivise the adoption of innovation but we are making a significant effort to change that.”

Speaking at the same event, Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King’s Fund, said CCGs and GPs may want to explore joint ventures with the independent sector to develop new models of care but said it was an “open answer” as to whether they will see it through.

The distance placed between the Secretary of State for Health and the NHS, caused by the proposed bill, could serve to aid this practice as it would remove the “risk-adverse culture held by politicians”, he argued.

“I can’t understand why my fellow GPs are bellyaching about the involvement of the independent sector, it means we get two bites of the cherry,” said Michael Dixon, Chairman of the NHS Alliance. 

“As long as competition is open and fair, I can’t see how anyone could say it is a bad thing.”