The first session was chaired by the Shadow Secretary of State for Health who, unsurprisingly, expressed deep concerns about GPs’ ability to fulfil their primary role when the consortia come into being, about accountability and, fundamentally about the ideological changes to the role of the NHS that these reforms reflect.
The representative from the DH sought to address concerns regarding the funding of the commissioning role that consortia will have – noting that the DH will pay £2 per head of population to cover these costs. Every GP practice will be a member of a consortium, and these consortia will be statutory NHS bodies. Within the consortia, GPs should focus on their existing roles – ‘other staff’ will carry out the commissioning role. Of real interest – the ‘Any Willing Provider’ model will place more power in the hands of patients, and the choice is NOT intended to be based on price competition.
The speaker from the Primary Trust Network provided a detailed breakdown of the timeline for transition, plus a rational analysis of what might go wrong (and what is already going wrong) during this critical stage.
The first session closed with Dr Johnny Marshall, aka Andrew Lansley’s ‘guru’. Understandably upbeat about the new role of GP consortia, some observers may nevertheless have been surprised to hear him highlighting the need for effective management technology and infrastructure. Employees of the soon to be extinct PCTs may have allowed themselves a wry smile at this; it almost sounded as if he was championing the need for an administrative network to ensure effective delivery…
Session two was a somewhat drier affair, although again providers will be interested in the input from Caroline Rassell of the East of England Commissioning Support Unit. She provided real insight into the role that Commissioning Support Organisations will play in the ‘buying’ of services and, under the ‘Any Willing Provider’ model, how independent providers (and voluntary organisations) may be able to “transform” the buying services element.
As always, the event proved itself an outstanding investment – the Westminster Health Forums continue to deliver insight into a rapidly changing sector. The evolution of GP consortia is gathering pace, but there remain plenty of opportunities for independent providers to ensure that the voices of the people they care for and support are not lost in the maelstrom.