Published: 11/4/2002, Volume II2, No. 5800 Page 6

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon has withdrawn his resignation as commissioning chair of his local primary care trust after receiving personal assurances from prime minister Tony Blair about the future of PCTs.

Dr Dixon - who has always been seen as one of the government's supporters on primary care policy - had planned to resign after he became frustrated with funding problems and a lack of progress on changing systems at local level.

Speaking to HSJ in January, Dr Dixon said he had decided to stand down from his role at MidDevon PCT because he was concerned that PCTs did not have enough power over commissioning because of the focus on national priorities, and the cost of maintaining existing services.

However, he has now said he would be happy to stay in the role, after he received personal assurances from Mr Blair that the forthcoming Budget will bring good news for the NHS and that the concerns of PCTs on issues like inherited debts and meeting targets will be addressed.

He told HSJ: 'The big issues are the funding and the straightjacketing. I was beginning to despair of getting the system to work and having the funding. I have had reassurances from the prime minister, and was told there is going to be reassuring news in the Budget.'

Dr Dixon said Mr Blair had assured him his concerns would be addressed, and he said: 'If he says he is going to fix it, I believe it.'

Dr Dixon also said his worries about foundation hospitals breaking links with local communities had also been assuaged. He said: 'I have had private reassurances that acute trusts will need to recognise strong commissioning relationships with PCTs.'

He also said his faith in professionals locally working well together to change services had been restored recently, with a multidisciplinary meeting on back pain services.

He said: 'We had a really good meeting on back pain and the treatment of back pain, and round the table we had the orthopaedic surgeons and specialist physiotherapists and others. It was a really adult discussion of the other services we could provide.

'That restored my belief that we can achieve things.GPs and nurses with specialist interests in back pain can give a far more available service. That was the thing that started to restore my faith.

'You can meet up with groups of specialists who want to change things.There will always be departments who will block things, but I believe there are enough change merchants around to do things.'