Headlines: November 2nd, 2006



Primary Care Trusts have been told they should commission new services from different providers and that they should pledge to make it easier for patients to change practices. The calls came from the Health Minister, Lord Warner, who said the NHS should open up family doctor services to tackle inequalities, improve patients’ access to GPs and offer them a greater choice of practices.

Lord Warner told an audience of senior PCT executives that trusts in all areas, and not just those in traditionally underserved parts of the country, should invite entrepreneurial GPs to provide additional services under the NHS banner if they wanted to open new practices under ‘franchise’. He also promised to give patients a real choice of practice by building up GP capacity.

Lord Warner said it was crucial that where existing practices were failing to meet local needs, trusts should look to commission new services from existing high-quality practices or new providers. “We need to introduce more contestability into primary care as we have done in secondary care. This, together with increased patient choice, will serve to drive up quality in existing services,” he said.

He was in no doubt, he said, that improvement in GP services could be achieved by harnessing provision from within the NHS, from existing contractors, or bringing in new providers. The contracting routes to be used were of less concern, he said, than the need for PCTs to move service delivery forward, and he said the NHS should not accept what had gone before but should seek out continuing enhancement in the services patients received and how they could access those services.

The Department of Health is working with Strategic Health Authorities and the 30 PCTs identified in the White Paper ‘Our Health, Our care, Our say’, to help them develop plans to increase primary medical care capacity locally. SHAs have also been invited to identify further volunteers from among PCTs that are “under-doctored” that might wish to join the nationally supported procurement.