Press release -

Department of Health (National): General practice pathfinders now cover more than half the country

In his speech today, The Prime Minister will welcome the groundswell of support from general practices that are now at the vanguard of modernising our NHS.

General Practice leadership is essential in order to deliver a patient-centred and efficient NHS.

That’s why we are encouraged by the second wave of pathfinders (a further 89 groups) that have put themselves forward to dry run the Coalition Government’s modern commissioning arrangements. This takes the total to 141 groups of GP practices of various shapes and sizes from across England.

As a big step towards delivering the plans set out in the Government’s NHS White PaperLiberating the NHS: Equity and Excellence, the groups, known as pathfinders, will work together to manage their local budgets and purchase services for patients direct with other NHS colleagues and local authorities.

The GP pathfinders announced today include practices providing healthcare to 28.6 million people across England. In addition to the first wave, this means over 50% of the population can start to benefit from their doctors’ proven clinical leadership, good partnership working with local authorities, and innovative ways of engaging with patients and the local community.

This early progress reaches beyond our expectations – and there will be yet more GP consortia coming forward to join the pathfinder programme, which will enable as many consortia as possible to test out the new arrangements at an early stage before GP consortia take on statutory responsibilities from April 2013.

Andrew Lansley said:

“If we want better results for patients and a more efficient NHS, then we must devolve power to General Practices.

“This second group of selected pathfinders is welcome evidence of widespread enthusiasm for taking these ideas forward.

“It is clear that GPs and nurses are ready and willing to take on commissioning responsibilities, the pathfinders to date demonstrate this but most importantly, the changes will enable them to make the decisions that better meet the needs of their local communities and improve outcomes for their patients.”

Patients are already seeing the benefits of local commissioning where consortia have been formed. The Croydon Healthcare Consortium, which serves a culturally and economically diverse population, are already leading the way in improving patient access to diagnostics, treatment and care. In response to feedback from patients, the Consortia was able to introduce a pilot locating mobile screening clinics at six Croydon GP practices to provide heart monitoring and ultrasound.

This has provided patients with greater choice and convenience, avoided long waiting times, high travel costs and expensive hospital parking, and sped up testing, diagnosis and treatment.

Also in Somerset, the local NHS identified a strong need for improving the management of long-term conditions. As a result of successful local commissioning, specific initiatives have been rolled out to improve the prescribing for patients living in nursing and residential homes and provide patients with a greater choice in end of life care.

In the first six months of the pilot, hospital admissions were reduced by 46 per cent. This is not only better for patients, but better use of NHS resources.

Pathfinders will test the new commissioning arrangements to ensure they are working well before more formal arrangements come into place.

GP pathfinders will be supported by the National Clinical Commissioning Network, the National Leadership Council, and by national primary care bodies, such as the Royal College of GP's Centre for Commissioning.


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