There is only "weak" evidence to suggest that GPs will be more effective at commissioning healthcare than PCTs, a leading think tank has said.
A report by Civitas said plans to introduce GP-led commissioning could set the NHS back at least three years compared to the inroads that could be achieved without any long-term structural changes.
Under the government's plans, patient care will lie solely with GPs who will also be responsible for individual budgets – a move that will see some £80bn rechannelled away from PCTs, which have traditionally held the purse strings, and placed in the hands of individual physicians.
But the change could result in a "one-year dip" in NHS performance, according to the think tank, which reflected upon a similar plan rolled out by the Tories in the 1990s known as GP fundholding, which improved speed, reduced waiting times and widened the range of available services, but failed to reduce costs as much as expected and proved to be unpopular with patients.
"Little research was carried out on the impact of fundholding on health outcomes," the report said.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the empowerment of GPs would put patient care first and would ensure money was spent exactly where it was needed and not doled out unnecessarily by strategic health authorities and PCTs.
He has also said GPs must be involved in commissioning out-of-hours care, which has come under fire since PCTs took control.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Given that there is a neverending stream of dictats and changes anyway, I am not persuaded it will make much difference – I am interested in the idea that GPs will not be able to manage as expressed by a consultant on Newsnight who thought hospital drs should be involved in commissioning
though he didn't produce evidence that consultants have any qualificaltions or experience in this sort of thing. Practice managers who will bear the brunt of this really are the forgotten force in the health service, yet many of us have both experience and qualifications" – Name and address withheld