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22-11-2011 | General practice | Article

Commissioning ‘handed to companies’


King’s Fund Health management and policy alert

Government proposals for commissioning support will allow the private sector to take over large parts of the system, the BMA claims.

Draft guidance leaked from the Department of Health sets out recommendations for how clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) should function, including how technical and back-office support should be provided.

But the BMA is concerned that the proposals "position commissioning support in a full-scale market", making it difficult for CCGs to employ their preferred commissioning support staff and for NHS commissioning bodies, such as those evolved from existing PCTs, to compete with larger commercial organisations.

BMA GPs Committee (GPC) Chairman, Dr Laurence Buckman, said: "The government promised a greater role for clinicians in its plans to reform the NHS and created CCGs, placing local GPs and other healthcare professionals in a leading position in the commissioning process.

"Yet now it seems barriers are being put in place that would undermine the ability of clinicians to take local decisions. This latest guidance gives the commercial sector an in-built advantage and appears to be yet another worrying step towards an NHS focused on commercial priorities."

Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King's Fund, told The Telegraph: "What GPs are worried about is that they will have to increasingly rely on the private sector to provide them with the expertise they need to manage £60 billion of public money."

Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the GPC, warned that private support "could wag the commissioning group's tail" and that "GPs will simply be too small to have any clout".

The BMA is "seeking an urgent meeting with the government to urge them to reconsider these proposals", said Dr Buckman.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price