Question: can GPs profiteer from commissioning?

Several reports in the media this week claim that GPs will be able to profiteer from the new commissioning arrangements by keeping any savings they make. In particular, it has been reported that private health firm IHP plans to set up a joint company with three GP consortia that would turn savings in their budgets into profits. Another report claims that GPs may be boosting their pay by using money intended for setting up services for patients to buy items such as carpets and paint for their surgeries.

The Department of Health emphasises that GPs cannot ‘pocket’ savings from their budget. A consortium’s commissioning budget must be used exclusively for patient care.

The Department is clear that it will not allow a situation where profits can be made at the expense of patient care or patient choice.

The response to the White Paper consultation clearly sets out how possible conflicts of interest for GPs will be prevented. The NHS Commissioning Board and Monitor will develop clear binding guidance for consortia to ensure decisions are fair, transparent and avoid any perceived or potential conflicts of interest. Each GP consortium must also set out arrangements for managing potential conflicts of interest and publish a constitution that details this.

The Bill also contains clear duties on the NHS Commissioning Board, and if necessary Monitor, to intervene where there are concerns about the fairness of commissioning decisions.

Regarding the alleged use of commissioning funds to refurbish surgeries, DH points out that any freed up resources from practice-based commissioning have to be reinvested in patient care.

Health Minister Lord Howe answers questions on how potential conflicts of interest will be addressed on Channel 4 News in the video below:

>> Read and watch Channel 4 News report
>> Read Guardian news story
>> Listen to BBC Radio 4 File on 4 programme

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