“It sounds like an MPs’ expenses type thing and that’s what we’ve got to avoid.” The words of Clare Gerada, Royal College of GPs chair, may prove to be prophetic.
HSJ’s investigation into how GPs have used commissioning funds rather than general contractors’ income to buy basic medical equipment and fund practice refurbishments has the potential to undermine trust in a group which is about to be given an annual budget of £60bn.
Like MPs, GPs making these claims did so on the basis that it was the way things worked. Too few primary care trusts were prepared to explain the inappropriateness of the requests; indeed, some encouraged them.
The NHS Commissioning Board must be much tougher. It must also be clearer about what constitutes a “core” GP service. Some medics may complain at having to dig deeper into their practice income, but MPs will tell them the alternative is far worse.