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GP Commissioning Consortia

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2011

Last week I announced the third wave of general practice-led pathfinder consortia. I am sure my hon. Friend will be delighted that the Nuneaton and Bedworth pathfinder was announced as part of that. There are now 177 groups of GP practices covering in total 35 million people across England, piloting the future general practice-led commissioning arrangements. I expect further coverage in the coming months. Pathfinders are playing an increasing role in commissioning care for patients, so more and more people will benefit from clinical leadership in planning their care.

In giving GP consortia such powers, will my right hon. Friend confirm that if consortia prove to be good housekeepers in terms of both commissioning and budgets, there will be some form of reward incentive that they can invest back into local patient care?

Yes, I can. Consortia will be able to reinvest any savings they make from their commissioning budgets for patients into improving patient care and health outcomes for patients for whom they are responsible. We have also proposed that consortia should receive a quality premium based on the outcomes achieved for patients, similar at a consortium level to the quality and outcomes framework for individual practices. That will incentivise the consortium as a whole to deliver improving outcomes for patients.

Some Government Members have supported the Government’s proposals for GP consortia because they believe that hospitals in their constituencies will be protected from closure, but yesterday’s leaked letter from the Foundation Trust Network to the Department of Health proves them wrong. It warns that financial stress is threatening the organisational survival of some foundation trusts. Now that they know that their hospitals are in danger, will the Secretary of State tell us all which faceless bureaucrats will be closing our hospitals and what extra powers, if any, local communities will have to stop them?

That will be the leak that took place when the head of the Foundation Trust Network gave it to the BBC.

The hon. Lady might not be very experienced in these matters, but she will know that at this time of year, in anticipation of the new financial year, hospitals tell their local primary care trusts how much money they would like to have, but that is not the same as the amount of money available in the whole system. That is part of the contract negotiations. She should also know that the necessity to deliver efficiency savings and redesign clinical services will mean that hospitals need to deliver 4% efficiency gains year on year, right across the NHS.

It will not be 6.5%, because things need to change so that efficiencies can be achieved within hospitals. That much is absolutely clear, and we have been clear about that. It does not threaten the future of hospitals, but incentivises to improve the design of clinical services and improve care for patients, providing more accessible care in the right place and at the right time.