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GP Commissioning

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2010

2. What account he took of arrangements for the provision of mental health services in developing his proposals for GP commissioning. (13148)

GPs play a crucial role in co-ordinating patient care and committing NHS resources through daily clinical decisions. Our new model of commissioning builds on the regular contact that GPs have with patients and their understanding of patients’ wider health care needs. Our proposals will create an effective dialogue across all health and social care, with professionals putting in place the conditions for a more integrated and personalised approach to both physical and mental health.

I thank the Minister for his answer. According to a recent survey by the leading mental health charity Rethink, 58% of GPs questioned said that they did not feel they had the level of expertise required to commission mental health services. Given that, what specific measures will the Government take to ensure that GPs have the skills and expertise needed to commission those highly specialised services?

I do not accept that that is the case, and from the consultation and engagement that the Department and I have already had with GPs and others, it is quite clear that there is huge enthusiasm for the reforms that we propose in the White Paper and a real desire both to see patients put at the heart of the NHS and for GPs to have real control over commissioning again, to ensure that services really meet patients’ needs. When it comes to specialist commissioning, we have said in the White Paper that there will be opportunities for charities, other providers and local authorities to access support to harness those skills.

Parnwell, in the east of Peterborough, which has specific health needs, faces the loss of its current single general practitioner upon his retirement at the end of October. Can the Minister confirm that there is no necessity to remove single practitioner GP facilities, and that they can be incorporated into the new GP commissioning system as we go forward?

It is of great concern that medical charities such as Rethink tell us that most GPs that they have surveyed feel that they lack the expertise needed to commission mental health services, and also that campaigning groups such as the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign feel that GPs have too little knowledge of muscle wasting conditions to commission services for their patients. Given Government plans to hand commissioning over to GPs, to abolish primary care trusts and, according to the White Paper, to reduce the role of the Department of Health in training, can the Minister say more to the House about how the considerable shortfall in expertise in commissioning services will be tackled over the next year or two?

It is perhaps worth noting that the Select Committee on Health, when there was a Labour majority on it before the election, back in March, identified significant weaknesses in PCT commissioning. In particular, it identified the lack of clinical input. Our White Paper puts that clinical input back into commissioning. When one considers that one in four of all consultations involve mental health problems and that 90% of all mental health care is delivered in primary care settings, one sees that putting the GP right at the centre is critical to better outcomes.

On the subject of consultation, what consultations have taken place with the mental health charities, either prior or subsequent to the proposals?

In July, I and the Secretary of State had a successful and long engagement with all the mental health charities, and we are continuing to have a dialogue with them.