The NHS Alliance has formed a new partnership with Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, which aims to support the development of its Practice-Based Commissioning Federation.

The NHS Alliance is an independent body that supports primary care, and its PBC Federation – lead by Julie Wood, Director for NHS Alliance PBC Federation and Chief Executives’ Transformation Network – was created to back up frontline commissioners.

Under the collaboration, a PBC “flying squad” is being planned to offer practical and focused support to commissioners on the frontline where help is most needed. This will be based on work already underway to support both practice-based commissioners and primary care trusts, to assess what is needed for effective commissioning of care and link up existing resources and demand, the NHS Alliance said.

Furthermore, a new report will be released in late summer outlining the current PBC environment and the elements necessary for achieving “transformational change.” This will follow a best practice DVD on PBC, Practical Solutions, to be published shortly, and precedes the development of a new edition of the guide Nuts and Bolts of Practice Based Commissioning in early 2008.

Health reform

PBC is one of the government’s key healthcare reforms, under which practices have a budget to commission their own services, the idea being that this will deliver higher quality care direct to local communities. But a recent survey by the King's Fund and NHS Alliance revealed that, although the majority of GPs believe in its potential, there still several barriers holding back the success of PBC.

Out of 250 GPs surveyed, 39% cited a lack of support from their PCTs and 23% financial constraints and short-term thinking as getting in the way. The report, Practice-based Commissioning: From good idea to effective practice has warned that PBC will fail to make any positive impact on care in the community unless better support is available from PCTs.

This fresh alliance with AstraZeneca may go some way in providing the support that is urgently needed. "It is by working in partnership that we can achieve so much,” said NHS Alliance PBC lead, Dr David Jenner, adding: “We are very grateful for AstraZeneca's support and its faith in practice-based commissioning."