GP Power - coming to a surgery near you

With the new government, we are set to witness the next big round of healthcare reform as the Coalition attempts to rein in spending whilst at the same time protecting frontline healthcare services. Lansley's white paper - Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS - sets out an ambitious set of reforms. SHAs and PCTs will be axed and GPs are set to control 80% of the £100bn NHS budget. Heady times indeed.

Carsten Edwards
Carsten Edwards
These changes will put GPs firmly in the driving seat as they are set to be given responsibility for commissioning services and crucially managing demand in order to deliver the £20bn that the Government is looking for. This is not an easy task given the failure of PCTs in the past. Yet at the same time given the fact that GPs have little or no relevant experience, questions are being asked.

The Treasury has justifiably stalled their seal of approval on the ambitious reform plans until some of the following questions can be answered: Are GPs willing and capable to take on these new commissioning responsibilities? Who will GPs look to for support? And how can they be made accountable if they are independent contractors?

There are a number of very well developed GPs practices which, through their close involvement in practice based commissioning, have successfully developed very sophisticated operations. They will be well positioned to lead this critical aspect of the proposed government reforms.
It will be the role of these beacons of best practice to lead the way with the establishment of effective GP consortia and encourage others to follow suit.

There are, however, a vast number of GPs who are not happy about these new plans. Many are angry about the lack of consultation and planning around the practical application of these reforms; where are GPs going to find these extra hours to manage their health economies from a business sense as well as effectively treat their patients? Where will they find the talent? Will certain individuals from PCTs and SHAs reappear once more?

Those newly formed GP consortia that are quick off the mark may well cherry-pick commissioning experts from the defunct SHAs and PCTs and position themselves at the forefront of reform. Industry should take note as the payer merry-go-round gathers pace as the market access success will likely depend on their continued ability to engage with the new payer players.

Furthermore, the complicated transition to the new structures may offer industry additional opportunities as stringent planning and flawless execution will be critical. These skills are abundant in the industry today. With the NHS in desperate need of business support, and the industry so well-placed to provide it, now may well be the time we’ve all been waiting for to provide that ‘partnership’ working that we’ve been talking about for so long.

By being more than a medicine manufacturer, the industry can now play-out their role as partners in health provision.

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