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GP scheme fails to benefit patients

A scheme that has seen GPs receive almost £100 million in incentives to deliver a greater range of services has been of no real benefit to NHS users, according to experts.

The King’s Fund think tank said practice-based commissioning had delivered little in terms of financial savings for the NHS, while its implementation had been “painfully slow” and, in some areas, had stalled completely.

The policy was introduced as a way of allowing GPs to run local budgets and “buy-in” services such as hospital and community care.

It was seen as a necessary step to providing more patient care in the community, thereby cutting costs and the number of referrals to hospitals.

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The government intended GPs to provide a range of services using practice-based commissioning, including diabetic care, diagnostic testing (such as X-rays) and dermatology.

But the report found very few GPs were using the scheme to commission new services, despite the fact they have been paid almost £100 million in incentive payments.

Report co-author Nick Goodwin, a senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: “As a policy established to pump-prime the transition of care out of hospitals by investing in alternative care in local communities, it has so far failed due to a lack of real investment, leadership, ambition and drive.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

King’s Fund