Key findings from the Department of Health’s latest commissioned survey on the progress of practice-based commissioning indicate that the situation is improving, albeit slowly.

PBC is a key component of the government’s programme of health reform, and is designed to encourage: better clinical engagement, by giving practices and healthcare professionals the freedom to develop innovative, high-quality services for their patients; a better services for patients, which will benefit from locally-tailored services; and better use of resources, by giving practices the ability to develop new services “within a framework of accountability and support”, according to the DH.

Conducted by Ipsos MORI, the second quarterly practice survey, which is basically designed to help the government gage how well PBC is being implemented, found a slight increase in support for the policy, with 59% of GP practices expressing their belief in the initiative compared to 57% in the previous period.

Furthermore, 36% of practices (33% in the first wave) had commissioned one or more new services through PBC during the quarter, but 76% said they felt it is yet to make a difference to how GP practices are run, marking a 2% rise on the prior survey.

On the up side, the number of practices which said they had agreed a commissioning plan with their primary care trust climbed 8% to 54%, and 42% thought the quality of managerial support provided by their PCT was good, compared to 37% in the first survey.

Information delay
The survey is the second in a planned wave of 13 commissioned to assess the implementation of PBC. But, in a strange twist, it seems the government had tried to keep the results of this latest survey out of the public domain for some time.

According to the NHS Alliance, PCTs received the information from the survey some weeks before practices did, but were asked to keep it a secret. “Why the insistence on secrecy, even if only for a limited time?” the Alliance asked in a statement.

“We are grateful to the Department of Health for making this information public,” commented NHS Alliance national lead for PBC, Dr David Jenner. “The survey is a valid and useful exercise that will help all of us who want to see practice based commissioning a success”.

“For the future,” he added, “we hope the Department will provide the results to PCTs and practices at the same time. We are expected to work together as equal partners, and that means we should be treated as equal partners.”