The Department of Health is currently working with key partners to support the increase of training numbers in general practice. From 1 April, the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for commissioning primary care medical services and specialised services. It will have a duty to commission those services in ways that improve quality and promote integrated care. Clinical commissioning groups will be responsible for commissioning most other services.
I applaud my hon. Friend for repeatedly raising her constituents’ concerns about this subject. We have made it absolutely clear that primary care trusts must work closely with clinical commissioning groups to ensure that they meet the challenges of the current financial year. As for the future, the joint strategic needs assessment and the health and wellbeing boards will provide real accountability locally, and I think that my hon. Friend will be able to feed into that to ensure that her constituents are given the health services that they need.
The Limbless Association wrote to Members of Parliament this month expressing concerns about proposals for the commissioning of extremely specialist prosthetic services, which would reduce patient choice and oblige the patient to follow the money rather than vice versa, and would damage some highly skilled professionals in the field. When did the Minister last meet representatives of the Limbless Association, and will he agree to meet them with me?
There is currently much talk about the importance of integrated services. Can my hon. Friend assure us that when commissioning primary care, the NHS Commissioning Board will emphasise the importance of integrating it with the other community health services supplied by the NHS, and that social care will be included in that fully integrated service?
I am happy to give my right hon. Friend an absolute assurance to that effect. The Department and I are working closely and collaboratively with both the Commissioning Board and the Local Government Association to ensure that we deliver integrated care, which is much the best way of keeping patients out of hospital and maintaining their condition.