Another day, another survey on GP commissioning suggesting that doctors are perhaps not so enamoured with the direction of travel laid out by the healthcare reforms as the government would like.

A radical shift in commissioning powers lies at the centre of the government's plans for the National Health Service, under which some £80 billion of the budget will be handed over to GP-led consortia tasked with purchasing the majority of services from 2013/2014, the idea being that this will bring decision-making closer to the front line and improve patient care.

But according to findings from a survey by the Nuffield Trust, just 23% of GPs currently feel that the proposed reforms will actually boost the quality of patient care provided by their organisation/practice.

A huge majority - 91% - felt that GP-led commissioning will focus on cost and, moreover, that this will lead to new restrictions and a step backward for patient choice.

Also, nearly two thirds of GPs think the proposed reforms will increase the use of private over NHS providers, and a significant number voiced discomfort at the prospect of discussing patient cases with secondary care doctors who they are ultimately unlikely to commission care from.

OFT investigation

Meanwhile, consumer watchdog the Office of Fair trading has now formally launched its market study into private healthcare, following a consultation on its scope. 

The OFT has confirmed that it will look into facets of privatisation such as how private healthcare providers compete on the price and quality of treatment and whether the concentration of provision at the national, regional and/or local levels may limit the extent of competition within the market.

A progress report is expected late summer before publication of the final market study by the end of the year.