West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will take on fully delegated commissioning responsibilities for general practice from 1 April 2017.
While the legal liability for primary care will remain with NHS England (NHSE), the CCG will buy and plan the care that people receive in GP practices.
Primary care co-commissioning offers the opportunity to fully utilise the knowledge of GPs and build on the relationships that the CCG has developed. The CCG is already responsible for buying and planning the majority of healthcare services, including hospital, community, ambulance and mental health services. By commissioning services in general practice the CCG have more control of the wider NHS budget, enabling it to increase its investment on primary and community services.
This new responsibility will also lead to the development of a more collaborative approach to designing local solutions in primary care. The CCG sees it as the beginning of a longer journey towards place based commissioning - where different commissioners come together to jointly agree commissioning strategies and plans, using pooled funds, for services for a local population.
Dr Rob Gerlis, chair of West Essex CCG and Harlow GP said: “We now have more control of how money is spent on primary care and we can plan at a local level more than ever before.”
CCGs that have already taken on co-commissioning have reported that the move has enabled the development of a clearer vision for primary care, which is aligned to wider CCG plans for improving health services. They have also reported greater public involvement in primary care commissioning, improvements in out-of-hospital services for local people and more opportunities for GP practices to work together.
Dr Gerlis continued: “We are delivering some fantastic outcomes and this will strengthen our hand. We have already helped our GP practices organise themselves into neighbourhood clusters and our new commissioner status will allow us to develop seamless, integrated out-of-hospital services based around the needs of local populations.”
Primary care co-commissioning is one of a series of changes set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View. It gives Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) an opportunity to take on greater responsibility for general practice commissioning. It was introduced to support the development of integrated out-of-hospital services, based around the needs of local people.
In 2016/17, 114 CCGs (out of 209) have delegated arrangements and approximately one third of CCGs have a joint arrangement – view the list of CCGs on the NHS England website.