NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon told delegates at the recent NHS Alliance conference that from the summer of 2008, NHS Alliance will produce its own annual report on the state of the NHS.

“To keep the NHS on track, we will produce our own annual report, reflecting the views of front-line managers, clinicians and patients on progress of the primary care-led NHS. From now on, Whitehall will have its own annual 360-degree appraisal from the NHS front-line. With more than a dozen national networks covering every primary care constituency, no-one is better placed to do that than NHS Alliance.”

Department of Health director-general of commissioning Mark Britnell subsequently announced that primary care trusts (PCTs – the NHS local administrative bodies charged with commissioning health services) would be given annual reviews by the DH to asses their progress with commissioning. These annual reviews will include self-assessment and peer review, but will also use 360-degree review of GP practices’ views of their PCTs.

Dr Dixon also warned that that the Department of Health “have to get the language right – proposals for ‘earned autonomy’ sounds like giving a prisoner time off for good behaviour! He called for “adult-adult relationships, based on trust: a culture of assumed responsibility”.

'Dangerous' times
He said that, while Government policy fully supports commissioning, “these are dangerous times for PCTs, practice-based commissioners, practices and providers. Introducing policy is not the same as changing culture. There are still too many who don’t support local decision-making, who do not want to see clinicians sharing power, but who do hope it will all end in spin”.

Addressing criticisms from senior people in the NHS that PCTs have not delivered on commissioning, Dixon said, "look what you’ve done to PCTs – straightjacketed them with targets; gagged them with national initiatives; and blinded them with lack of data - then spun them round in circles in the name of reform! Then you accuse them of not delivering!"

Dixon added that “GPs must catch and understand the public mood and improve access – which is such a source of irritation. Every patient should be able to have access to their personal GP who can see them in a reasonable time”.

By Andy Cowper