As we reach April 1st the debate on what the reforms means for the NHS has increased in intensity. With this debate comes, perhaps understandably, challenge to those involved in CCGs - why are we involved, what's in it for us, are we being naive, why not walk away, are we part of the plan to privatise the NHS?
This is my personal perspective.
I believe clinicians should be involved in planning patient services
Clinicians can drive improvements in services by working closely with managers, patients and partners such as local authorities. By focusing on patients and quality we engage others, including local GPs. We are passionate about local services, about improving patient outcomes.
CCG leads know what the challenges are.
I don't feel naive, don't feel used in some master plan. I feel a sense of responsibility to patients, to members and to the local community. I spend a lot of time with other CCG leads - all work extremely hard for patients and any suggestions of naivety does them a disservice.
Commissioning helps me as a doctor.
I'm a stronger patient advocate as a result of commissioning. I'm more aware of pathways, understand local services better. I, and my GP colleagues locally, know much more about local providers and their quality.
The system is more fragmented
From April there are more organisations responsible for commissioning. Patient outcomes and safety must remain the focus. GPs are ideally placed to work with others, to listen to patients, to be powerful patient advocates across the system. CCGs have a crucial role in ensuring the system works.
Walking away would not benefit patients
This is a crucial time for the NHS. Clinical commissioning is an opportunity. Clinicians, from the whole system, should be responsible for planning, as well as delivering, care. My duties as a doctor don't end at my consulting room door.
External roles can be beneficial
There are many external roles, such as working with the BMA or RCGP. All are valid, and can enhance knowledge and job satisfaction. Doctors should not be criticised if they are not consulting full-time. There are many reasons to be part-time, and focusing on population health can deliver significant benefits for patients.
I'm not here to privatise the NHS
There may be occasions when competition is beneficial, or where existing EU law will mean we have to tender for services. However, CCGs are focused on increasing integration to improve quality, as shown in a HSJ survey in 2012. I'm determined to help improve NHS services, to strengthen them.
CCGs deserve professional support
It is important for the profession to support clinical commissioners, to understand their motivations and help build a successful commissioning system with clinicians and patients at the centre. It's an opportunity for General Practice.