Labour has criticised NHS England’s plan to give clinical commissioning groups a role in commissioning primary care.

Simon Stevens, who began work as NHS England chief executive last month, announced he would invite CCGs to bid to apply for a role co-commissioning primary care. It has, since April 2013, been the responsibility of NHS England, because of concerns of conflict of interest for CCGs and their GP members and leaders.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told HSJ the move highlighted an “intrinsic flaw” in the current system and risked creating a conflict of interest. He claimed the idea was “trying to correct” problems created by the Health Act 2012 reforms.

Mr Burnham said that “making [GPs] providers the main commissioners” had created an entrenched “conflict”. Giving primary care commissioning to CCGs would not solve the problem, he added.

“What guarantees the public interest is being served and that we’re not having GPs commissioning themselves?” he asked. “It is ludicrous we are four years in [to the NHS reorganisation process] and the reorganisation goes on.”

Mr Burnham has previously suggested a Labour government would shift responsibility for health services towards health and wellbeing boards or local authorities.

He told HSJ that this shift would allow local commissioners to take responsibility for primary care.

“This is why we’re right to look to health and wellbeing boards,” he said. “That is an entity that could take decisions that would carry more confidence… without the perceived level of conflict of interest.”

NHS England said last week that applications by CCGs to co-commission will be tested by NHS England, including for “how they will ensure transparent and fair governance - with a continuing oversight role for NHS England to safeguard against conflicts of interest”.

It also said: “In accordance with national legislation, NHS England (and its area teams) will in all parts of the country continue directly to discharge specific primary care responsibilities, including in respect of community pharmacy, primary dental and ophthalmic services, as well as certain responsibilities in respect of [general practice].”