GP consortia would have more incentive to collect data on patient comorbidities, the Nuffield Trust suggests.

Researchers from the think tank have gleaned lessons from US physician groups.

Speaking at the national Primary Care Live conference last week, Nuffield senior research fellow Ruth Thorlby said: “They are interesting because they hold capitated budgets at risk in the same way that GP commissioners will, many of them for the entire spectrum of care.”

She said one lesson was the collection of detailed information on comorbidities, which informed the commissioner’s budget. Generally patients with more comorbidities mean higher commissioner funding as they have costlier health needs.

Ms Thorlby said: “This is a win, win. People see someone with a high level of need as a good thing, rather than a way of busting the capitation for that person.”

At present GPs receive bonus payments under the quality and outcomes framework for collating practice disease registers. But these have been criticised as incomplete, particularly in more deprived areas.

The Nuffield findings, which are due to be published later this year, also identified a need for high quality physician leaders who were aware of their strengths and limitations.

Ms Thorlby said: “They knew when to bring the managers in. This was a really important point, there’s a point at which you need specialist help on the finance or with the contracts.”

She added the US groups had a good understanding of the importance of IT, with analysts on hand, and worked closely with secondary providers, in some cases basing a member of staff at hospitals to monitor the progress of their own patients.

The Nuffield researchers visited the US in July and carried out extensive interviews with five physician groups in California.