GP consortia would be “unwise” and potentially acting illegally if they picked NHS organisations as providers of choice, the NHS Confederation has warned.

The British Medical Association GPs committee last week issued a position statement on the handover of commissioning to GPs, in which it set out a range of underlying principles it says must underpin the policy.

I would urge GPs to resist pressure to move too quickly

Among the principles outlined by the committee are that consortia should ensure, wherever possible, that NHS providers are the providers of choice.

But NHS Confederation acting chief executive Nigel Edwards warned “this principle is doubtful in law and unwise in practice”.

He said: “As commissioners, GP consortia will have a responsibility to purchase the best quality care for patients while also providing value for the taxpayer.

“It is important that GP commissioners do not simply dismiss what non-NHS organisations can offer.”

Among its other principles, the committee says saved resources must be reinvested in patient care and GPs must not personally profit from commissioning budgets.

Additionally, it says a consortium must be democratically accountable to the practices within it, and should also act with integrity and leadership when considering the accountability of practices.

GPs committee chair Laurence Buckman said: “Even though there is still little detail about how commissioning will work we know that many primary care trusts are pushing ahead trying to make arrangements.”

He called for this process to be slowed down in order to plan properly how GP commissioning should work.

Dr Buckman said: “Time needs to be given to planning how it should work, based on the principles we’ve outlined. I would urge GPs to resist pressure to move too quickly.”

This contradicts the message around pace coming from primary care organisations, such as the NHS Alliance. Its chair Michael Dixon has urged GP commissioners and PCTs to get their GP consortia up and running as soon as possible.

He told a practice based commissioning conference in July: “We need to get this off the ground as quickly as possible. As with flying, we will need many flying hours before we are confident and prepared to go solo in 2013.”