The Department of Health has launched a public consultation on an amendment that would allow budgets for core GP services to be pooled with clinical commissioning group and local authorities’ funds.
The proposed change would widen the existing NHS Bodies and Local Authorities Partnership Arrangements Regulations 2000. These currently provide for CCGs and local authorities to pool budgets for the commissioning of community health and social care services.
The amendment would mean NHS England, which is responsible for primary care including GP services, could also put funds for these services into pooled arrangements. It could potentially be used to commission integrated services incorporating GP, general acute and community, and social care services.
Local councils have welcomed the proposals.
David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, told HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle: “I think it is something to be supported in that anything that enables maximum flexibility in the joining up of services and the commissioning of those services at a local level is to be welcomed. This is really about removing some of the potential barriers to that.”
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The proposed amendment would not place any requirement on local areas or NHS England to use the new flexibilities. Mr Pearson said it was “impossible to predict” how many local authorities would take advantage of them.
LGC understands that many councils had argued for the inclusion of primary care in pooled budgets during discussions around the better care fund.
The consultation, which closes on 8 March, also seeks views on whether there would be significant benefits in extending pooled funding arrangements to other areas of primary care; namely, dental, ophthalmic and pharmaceutical services.
Neil Revely, executive director of people services for Sunderland City Council, said that working with pharmaceutical services could offer particular opportunities.
“If there are opportunities through that route to support further prevention work in communities, I think it would be good at least to have that opportunity available,” he added.
The consultation recognises the need to guard against potential conflicts of interest among GP commissioners, but believes the current framework should continue to provide sufficient safeguards where the new flexibilities are used.
A spokesman from the Local Government Association said: “We support the co-commissioning of primary care at local level as an important opportunity for services to be more closely tailored to the needs of local communities.
“The role of health and wellbeing boards will be crucial in ensuring that any potential conflicts of interest for CCGs in commissioning primary care services are addressed robustly and transparently.”