General practice commissioning: in whose interests?

An investigation into England’s clinical commissioning groups shows that many are commissioning from organisations in which board members are involved, Gareth Iacobuccireports

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England have awarded hundreds of contracts worth at least £2.4bn (€3.4bn; $3.7bn) to organisations in which their board members have a financial interest, a joint investigation by The BMJ and The Times has found.

This new analysis shows the extent to which CCG boards have become conflicted under the health reforms introduced in 2012, which handed general practitioners control of around two thirds of the NHS’s total budget.

The data have reignited calls to ban GPs who are directors of provider organisations from holding board positions on CCGs that could commission them. NHS England has ordered an audit of how CCGs are managing conflicts of interest. Patient representatives, MPs, and doctors’ leaders are also concerned that governance standards are too lax in some areas. NHS England’s current rules allow CCGs the freedom to determine whether conflicted CCG board members should be excluded from relevant parts of meetings or join in discussions but not participate in decision making when commissioning services.

Full story in The BMJ, 11 November 2015

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