Although the health secretary is promising to abolish PCTs within two years, to the tune of nearly 25,000 management posts, concerned managers and GPs may be surprised to find many opportunities await them in the reformed NHS.
Andrew Lansley has called time on primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. With PCTs set to be abolished by April 2013, an estimated 24,500 NHS management posts are set to go.
Through these reforms, the role of family doctors is changing greatly. Katie Anderson, UK divisional manager for Reed Doctor, comments: “Through the formation of GP consortia, GPs are taking hold of the purse strings to the majority of frontline NHS care. Consortia will take on responsibility for ‘buying in’ the bulk of hospital and community services for their patients. It’s a positive thing that commissioning in the NHS will change from being consultant-led to GP-led as GPs get to see the whole picture of their patients’ needs so are perhaps better suited to a commissioning role.
“What has initially caused concern in the press is the misconception that all GPs will have to be actively involved in the commissioning process. In fact, those GPs that do not wish to get more involved can appoint others to bargain with providers on their behalf, whereas those that want to step up will have the opportunity within their consortium to do so.”
Ryan Sutton, business manager at Reed Health, adds: “There is another role within a GP practice that could take on commissioning responsibilities, that of the practice manager. Over recent years the role of practice manager has become increasingly business-savvy. Many practice managers will currently be involved in strategic planning and finance issues so this is a natural extension of their existing responsibilities.
“In larger cities that have super-practices, we may see a rise in demand for super-practice managers that can oversee a team of practice managers whilst also being responsible for commissioning decisions. This could create development opportunities for existing practice managers who wish to expand their responsibility and skill set.”
Although more than 20,000 management jobs from PCTs are set to go, Mr Sutton thinks that the outlook for these management staff is far from bleak.
He says: “Although there will be redundancies, it’s predicted that the majority of staff from PCTs will find jobs either in the newly-created GP consortia or independent companies that will provide services to consortia.
“In fact, commissioning consortia will need a lot of the same support functions that PCTs did – such as intelligence, performance data, financial advice and IT. As there are already people providing good examples of these services in PCTs, the NHS will want to retain this expertise.
“We recommend that staff who think they are in line for redundancy get geared-up to apply for new positions, especially if they have been in the same job for a number of years and aren’t used to the process of finding a new position. They should ensure that their CV is up-to-date, and actively look to match their existing skill set with the skills that any new role requires on their application.”
There may also be a rise in temporary or fixed-term contracts to ensure that the transition from PCT to consortium is a smooth one.
Mr Sutton continues: “Temporary and fixed-term contracts offer an advantage to the NHS as this type of contract offers stability and a greater awareness of what costs are involved. As it’s a change that must succeed the first time, we may even see a demand for change management consultants to oversee the transfer of services.
“Although the changes to the NHS are considerable, it is truly an exciting time in terms of recruitment. PCT managers may be surprised at the opportunities that await them after the dissolution of PCTs while GPs and practice managers will be presented with the chance to develop their skillset and take on additional responsibility if that is what they want.”