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12-09-2010 | General practice | Article

GPC urges consortia link-up


British Medical Association White Paper Guidance: Initial Observations

Small commissioning consortia should join up with larger groups in order to stay financially viable, advises the British Medical Association (BMA) in latest guidance on the proposed National Health Service reforms.

In the next of its series of guidance notes on the White Paper, the BMA's GPs Committee (GPC) recommends that individual consortia should each serve a population of between 100,000 and 750,000. But those at the lower end of this range should consider joining up with other consortia and appointing a lead consortium, or shared agency, to work on behalf of all members, the GPC says.

"It is unlikely that consortia with populations of less than 500,000 will find it easy to manage financial risk, while they may not have sufficient management resources to function effectively nor take advantage of the economies of scale necessary to ensure that commissioning is efficient," the guidance states.

On the other hand, larger or lead consortia will be better able to deal with acute care trusts and local authorities, and attract high-quality clinical and managerial leaders, the GPC reasons.

Other key recommendations include splitting the commissioning of specialist services, so that clinicians are responsible solely for the care pathway, while trained managers take on procurement, and that consortia could bring in secondary care clinicians to collaborate in redesigning services.

Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chairman of the GPC, commented: "The key thing to remember is that at a national level much is still to be decided and negotiated - we are, after all, still in the consultation period. Therefore any arrangements that GPs put in place should be flexible enough to deal with changes and nothing should be set in stone at this early stage.

"It's unlikely that the government will provide a lot of guidance about how consortia should be formed. GPs will be expected to organise it. This guidance is our view of how GPs should best proceed with making these arrangements. We will keep updating our guidance as more information becomes available."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price