Headlines: February 8th, 2000

While most of the new Primary Care Groups (PCGs) in the NHS have made a good start on their task of changing the way frontline medical care is delivered, many have been held back by limited resources and poor access to data.So says a briefing paper issued by the Audit Commission, which is its second review of the nearly 500 local bodies now responsible for developing primary care and funding many hospital services. PCGs now manage budgets totalling 19 billion pounds a year.

The briefing, ‘The PCG Agenda: early progress of primary care groups in the new NHS’, follows interviews with chief executives of the new groups. They thought that, to succeed, they would need to find ways to overcome time pressures on key individuals, win more funding, improve data quality, information technology and communications facilities, generate more GP involvement, and reconcile conflicts between local and national healthcare priorities.

The briefing includes signposts to how innovative PCGs are tackling some of these issues.

The Department of Health says it is tackling the issues raised by initiating a central programme of support and development. The new National Primary Care Development Team will give all PCGs access to expert advice and support, and will aid sharing of best practice. It has also said that the NHS Executive is to monitor the wide variation in management costs across PCGs.

The briefing is available, without charge, from Audit Commission Publications on 020 7396 1494.