Health secretary Andrew Lansley today told the British Medical Association conference that use of resources is a “core responsibility” of doctors.

Mr Lansley told the union audience his GP commissioning policy would mean unifying “management of care together with management of resources and services”.

He said: “GPs [are] coordinating healthcare so they are best placed to coordinate commissioning – but all clinicians must take on a much greater role. GPs will be expected to work closely with hospital consultants and their colleagues in all parts of the profession.”

Mr Lansley acknowledged some GPs were not enthusiastic about taking on the responsibility. He said: “I want to appeal to all GPs – keen, or not so keen. I understand the philosophy that says your professional responsibility is to be concerned about the patient sitting opposite you.

“But giving GPs greater commissioning responsibility isn’t about detracting from the support you give to individual patients.

“It is based on the understanding that to achieve the best for each patient, you need the power to design services that are right for all your patients. And that to get the priority right for each patient, you need to set priorities for all your patients.

“As the Royal College of Physicians argues – the responsibility for the use of resources is now a core responsibility for the whole profession.”

BMA Council chair Hamish Meldrum, speaking at the same event yesterday, said GPs could use their new commissioning power to “bypass, if not ignore” the government’s support for competition and non-NHS providers in the NHS.

The union has vocally campaigned against the use of independent providers.