Confidence among GPs in the performance and potential of the UK’s new commissioning landscape remains low, suggest findings from an exclusive survey for the latest issue of PharmaTimes Magazine, which is now available as a free digital download.
Headline results – from a poll of 831 regionally representative family doctors in England – found the majority (44%) feel clinical commissioning groups have made “no difference” since their introduction in April last year.
The results showed that almost a quarter (23%) of GPs feel CCGs – which handle an annual cash pot of around £65 billion, or two-thirds of the NHS’ total budget – have been “extremely unsuccessful” or “unsuccessful” thus far, while just 18% think they have been “successful”.
Worryingly, the majority (43%) also feel the introduction of CCGs will make “no difference” to patient outcomes, with just 9% believing they will, in stark contrast to the government’s belief that these bodies will play a key role in this critical measure.
“CCGs are at the heart of the government’s strategy for the NHS. However, our survey suggests they have received a lukewarm response from many GPs, and a significant number do not believe that CCGs will achieve their goal of improving patient outcomes,” says Tim Ringrose, chief executive of Doctors.net.uk, which conducted the poll for PharmaTimes Magazine.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, GPs believe the greatest challenge facing CCGs in the coming year is cost-cutting, with 43% of those surveyed citing it as the number one issue, followed by an ageing population (14%) and uncertainty in the healthcare landscape (12%).
This echoes findings from the latest King’s Fund quarterly report, which showed that 13% of CCGs predict a deficit by year-end, with most CCG finance leads “very pessimistic” about the next financial year.
“If CCGs are to balance competing budgetary needs and demands in a joined-up and cohesive way that benefits the wider NHS, they must be more closely integrated with secondary care and social care services,” says Ringrose.
He also stresses that “improving communication within the NHS, so that GPs and secondary care doctors can collaborate more effectively, is one key area that needs to be addressed in 2014 if CCGs are to tackle the challenges that lie ahead”.
Also commenting on the results, David Paynton, national clinical lead for the RCGP Centre for Commissioning, says: “It is too early to tell whether CCGs have been a success, but we need to ensure that GPs on CCG boards are sufficiently empowered to work with the Health and Wellbeing Boards, then to take local decisions and make them count”.
GPs are best placed to make commissioning decisions, oversee the effective delivery of services, and drive necessary change, based on the needs of their patients and local communities, he told PharmaTimes Magazine, but stresses they must “work with community, social and secondary care, from a community perspective, without having to worry about commercial conflicts of interest”.