Health Minister Ben Bradshaw today (17 July 2008) reaffirmed the government's commitment to practice-based commissioning (PBC) and said a "package of measures" would incentivise uptake of the policy, amid concerns that it has not fully got off the ground.
In addition, PCTs who did not provide support to practices to implement PBC were warned that they would be held accountable.
At a PBC conference organised by primary care organisation the NHS Alliance, Mr Bradshaw urged clinicians and healthcare managers to work in tandem to provide high-quality care targeted to their local populations.
He said the Department of Health's World Class Commissioning framework included a package of measures – including giving greater freedom to develop patient services – to reward high-performing practice-based commissioners.
In a question and answer session, one delegate said that his practice was strongly involved with PBC, but found one of the main frustrations was that, despite saving the practice money, they were not able to redirect those savings into new patient services as they would like, and that their efforts to innovate through PBC were "disintegrating in front of us".
In response, Mr Bradshaw stated that a "step change [for PBC] would come with the World Class Commissioning assurance system, which outlines PCTs responsibilities towards supporting PBC.
Mark Britnell, Director General of Commissioning and System Management at the DH, said: "Practice-based commissioners will be able to hold PCTs to account. There isn't anywhere [for poorly supporting PCTs] to hide."
In an opening address, NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said that World Class Commissioning "can only be achieved if we bring two quite different (and regrettably separate) worlds together."
"There's the world inhabited by health policymakers and senior officials. And there is the murkier world of everyday practice," he said, adding: "The two should be complementary. But we are seeing an uneasy relationship – even a struggle – between the two."