Primary care trusts are incapable of implementing the next stage review due to ‘striking and depressing’ management weaknesses, MPs have warned.

A health select committee report on the next stage review reveals the MPs are unconvinced the world class commissioning programme will equip PCTs with the skills to carry out reforms set out by health minister Lord Darzi last June.

This means “implementation of the NSR may be slower and more uneven than the government hopes”, according to the report.

‘Depressing’ lack of skills

PCTs lack analytical and planning skills and the quality of their management is very variable, the inquiry found. The report states: “We consider this to be striking and depressing.”

It says it is “unfortunate” that the review does not place more emphasis on the importance of recruiting and developing better managers.

Weak commissioning

Committee chairman Kevin Barron said: “We were pleased by the extent of consultation with clinicians and patients which went into the next stage review, and the emphasis in the report on quality and leadership must be welcomed.

“However, we remain very concerned that PCTs are not yet up to the task of putting these reforms into practice.

“We heard a lot of evidence about weaknesses in PCT commissioning, which our committee has highlighted in previous reports, and the ability of PCTs and SHAs to manage effectively these changes is a genuine worry.”

Managers fight back

NHS Confederation acting chief executive Steve Barnett said the committee’s concerns about PCTs were “misplaced” as commissioners’ skills had improved significantly over the last two years and would continue developing.

He said: “We feel the committee has missed an opportunity to provide a more rounded view on the NHS’s preparedness to deliver a patient-centred service.”

See this week’s HSJ for more on the report.