Clinical senates were designed to act as a “hand grenade” to remove barriers preventing GPs and hospital doctors talking, not “another level of bureaucracy”, Professor Steve Field has said.

Speaking to delegates at the NHS Confederation conference during a session on what happens after the pause, Professor Field said he had heard of some hospitals “trying to prevent their consultants having a dialogue with GPs”.

“What we are trying to do is create a new culture where hospital doctors and GPs actually talk to each other. What we are trying to do is throw a hand grenade into the situation to get them to work together,” he said.

Professor Field introduced the idea of clinical senates in the report of the Future Forum which he chaired. In response to a question from a delegate he admitted he had not envisaged them being part of the NHS Commissioning Board, as planned by the government.

Asked whether clinical commissioning groups would have to get sign off from clinical senates for every commissioning decision Professor Field said the forum had been “anxious not to create another level of bureaucracy that prevents change”.

Dame Barbara Hakin, the department of health’s national managing director for commissioning development, told delegates senates would give advice in the “broader sense” for example on difficult reconfigurations.

“If I was working with my CCG I would want to think about working with [neighbouring CCGs] to see if we could have some advice locally,” she said.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP committee told delegates the “majority” of GPs were apathetic towards clinical commissioning and said it would only succeed and release efficiency savings if they could be engaged.

He said: “Our focus needs to be on the grass root GP and not the few that lead.”

“GPs want to be enabled and supported to commission and that’s not necessarily been their experience in the past.”

Dame Barbara said she would be making sure CCGs got a lot of delegated authority from primary care trust clusters.