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Clinical Commissioning Groups

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2013

13. What plans he has to increase the management capability of doctors elected to clinical commissioning groups. (165210)

Clinical commissioning groups have the freedom and autonomy to determine the skills and expertise needed to enable them to deliver improved outcomes for their local communities, and NHS England is developing an assurance framework to ensure that they all have the capacity and capability to do that.

Is the Secretary of State aware that a number of doctors, certainly the ones I have talked to, are deeply concerned about the inadequacy of their management capabilities to run these complex organisations? Is he worried that many of them are saying that they have to turn to private health care people to back them up and give them advice? Is that healthy in the NHS?

I am absolutely aware that there a lack of clinical leadership, and when we go on to the statement later today, I am sure that we will be discussing what needs to be done to improve the quality of leadership, particularly clinical leadership. Very often the best leadership in any hospital or any commissioning group comes from clinicians, and we have much work to do to make that happen. But I do not think that that means that we should duck the challenge; we just have to get on and make sure that people have the right training and can be supported to do the job we need them to do.

The Secretary of State seems to be answering a different question. The question was about management training for doctors who are being put in the position, without any training and with no consultation—many are doing this against their wishes—of having to manage in a way that they have never been trained to do and are not inclined to do. Would it not be better to put in place the assurance and the training he talks about before rushing into this madcap reorganisation, which the Government did?

May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, first, these people are not doing these jobs against their will, as they volunteered to do them? Secondly, the quality of CCGs is being assured very closely, and they are receiving a lot of support. But it is a big job because, generally speaking, we want more clinical leaders. They need support in learning management skills in order to do that job well, and across the whole NHS we need to be doing that better.

Will the training of clinical leaders include training in legal advice about mergers? I was shocked to see a response from Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust showing that they had already spent more than £1.5 million on legal advice about their merger, which has been prevented by the Competition Commission, and that in future they expect to spend £6 million on this scheme. Is it right that our health money should be going on legal advice?

No, and I am as concerned as the hon. Lady that it is difficult to push through the mergers that local commissioners want to happen. We have to operate within the framework of European law, but we are looking at what we can do to make it easier for these things to happen.