DH throws new lifeline to ‘low-scoring’ GP practices

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: News stories | Tags: |

Pulse | By By Gareth Iacobucci | 6 October 2009

The Department of Health is to hand a lifeline to practices that score badly in balanced scorecards as part of a huge policy shift in the way GP services are commissioned.

New guidance to NHS trusts will advise them to give current providers ‘at least two chances’ to improve where they are found to be under-performing, and that alternative providers should only be considered as a last resort.

The move will be seen as a welcome boost to GPs under scrutiny on issues such as performance and value for money, who will now be given more time to get things right.

It represents a significant change in stance from the DH, which had been actively encouraging PCTs to stimulate the market by putting more GP services out to tender under APMS.

The move has already been attacked by former health secretary and architect of the 2000 NHS Plan, Alan Milburn MP, who told delegates at the Labour Party conference that the NHS needed more not less competition to remain financially sustainable.

But PCT bosses said the move was a necessity in the current climate. Dr David Paynton, commissioning director at NHS Southampton City and a GP in the city, said choice was not compatible with financial deficit.

Speaking at the Primary Care Live conference in London, Dr Paynton said: ‘We are going to have to look at how we are going to manage choice.

‘If we’re going to cope with the economic situation then we can’t afford to commission for overcapacity. If you commission extra capacity to increase competition, that will increase demand and we can’t afford it.’

Angela Gibson, DH lead on World Class Commissioning assurance framework and director of commissioning at Sutton and Merton PCT, also speaking at the event, said: ‘You should try to drive up quality of care in existing providers before going out to the market.’

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum welcomed the move: ‘We see this as a very positive sign that the Health Secretary is listening to the concerns of the BMA and others about the increasing commercial involvement in the NHS. We look forward to his words being translated into real change on the ground.’

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