The Royal College of GPs – which has heavily criticised the government’s NHS reform programme – has already been paid £1.5m to help teach GPs how to commission.

The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has paid the sum to the college for its role as partner in running the RCGP Centre for Commissioning, which was launched last December.

A further payment of £400,000 has been agreed but not yet paid. The RCGP was also paid £500,000 by the institute in 2010-11 for work on its Productive General Practice programme, and was the largest recipient of funds from the body.

RCGP chair Clare Gerada has been one of the leading critics of the government’s NHS reforms, although she has said she “fully supports” placing clinicians at the centre of commissioning decisions.

The NHS Institute said in a statement to HSJ that the RCGP Centre for Commissioning existed to equip GPs, practices and consortia with the competencies to commission effective healthcare.

The government is currently reviewing its GP commissioning proposals during the “pause” in the Health Bill process.

The institute’s statement said: “In relation to any funds not already spent or committed, the terms of the grant provide that if it becomes clear that the original purpose of the grant cannot be satisfied, they will be returned to the NHS Institute.”

“However, our opinion, and that of the centre, is that it is likely that there will continue to be a substantial role for GPs in relation to commissioning and they will require support in this role, notwithstanding any changes that might be made as a result of government policy.”

The RCGP declined to comment beyond the institute’s statement.