Political pressure to produce rapid results and move to primary care trust status may be undermining the ability of primary care groups to achieve long-term change, a report has warned.
Professor David Wilkin, project director for the national tracker survey of PCGs and PCTs, said: 'The issue needs taking out of the political arena.
If it stays there, the danger is PCGs will suffer because of the political pressure.'
The project's first report, covering the first six months of 72 PCGs, says there is a danger they will not be allowed to 'learn from experience' and the 'rush' to PCT status 'raises questions about their capacity to take on new roles and responsibility'.
It also warns there is a 'danger that local initiatives will be squeezed out by the demands of national priorities'.
'Lots are wanting to move rapidly to PCT status and a large proportion want to merge as well, ' said Professor Wi lk in .
'The New NHS white paper set out four levels, and that people would progress and build experience. In practice, most start at level two and move immediately to level four.
'The NHS Executive says there is pressure from the bottom up.What we observed was that was the way the policy agenda was going and it was in PCGs' best interests to act quickly.
What we wanted to see much more was PCGs saying it would enable them to deliver better services.'
Such radical changes in primary care management would need three to five years to produce tangible differences, he predicted.
'Politicians should concentrate on their achievements, but not push them so far and so fast, ' he said.'It is not the next election, but the one after that they should be looking at.'
The national tracker survey is run by the Manchester-based National Primary Care Research and Development Centre and the King's Fund.
Its report found that although PCGs have 'worked hard' to involve local health staff and communities and 'laid the foundations for successful corporate working', they still have a long way to go.
A key issue was lack of information.
The report says 'relevant, accurate and timely information' to underpin core functions 'was often notable by its absence' and the information needs of PCGs and PCTs need to be given 'high priority'.
The survey also shows that PCGs need to engage more with GPs and nursing staff who are not on the board, and with the local community.
The Tracker Survey of Primary Care Groups and Trusts: progress and challenges 19992000 . www. npcrdc. man. ac. uk/ Pages/Research/PCG. htm