A large majority of clinical commissioning groups are gearing up to take on responsibility for management of GP contracts in the next year, the HSJ CCG Barometer has found.

The finding, in the latest HSJ CCG Barometer survey, comes despite a level of confusion and controversy about the policy of inviting CCGs to “co-commission” general practice.

In May NHS England announced that groups would be allowed to apply for some responsibility for primary care services, which has been held by NHS England since April last year.

Around 180 CCGs have applied for some co-commissioning role, but it has previously not been clear how many want to take on delegated management GP contracts.

Doing so would give them greater potential to reshape GP services and address poor care, but is also controversial because it would make GP led CCGs responsible for managing contracts of fellow GPs. The British Medical Association has said it believes CCGs should not be involved in commissioning core GP services.

However, 70 per cent of CCG leaders who responded to the barometer survey said they were likely to take on delegated responsibility for management of GP contracts in the next year.

Tower Hamlets CCG chair Sam Everington told HSJ he did not think CCGs should be involved in the direct performance management of practices. He said there was “a lot of confusion” among commissioners about what co-commissioning might involve.

Norwich CCG chief executive Jonathon Fagge said co-commissioning general practice was appealing to CCGs. However, he said there was a risk that, if they did not get additional funding to do the work, they may not succeed. Managing GP contracts could also “entirely change the relationship” between CCGs and its GP members, he said.

NHS Clinical Commissioners co-chair Steve Kell agreed CCGs would need additional management resources and capacity to take on extra commissioning responsibility.

Sixty-eight per cent of survey respondents said they expected to take on delegated responsibility for significant specialised services in the next year. NHS England is exploring how it could share responsibility for some of these with CCGs, and whether some should be handed back to CCG control completely, but has not yet decided.

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