End of GP dispute to allow NHS reforms to go ahead

LANDMARK changes giving GPs control over the bulk of NHS spending are going ahead across Yorkshire following the end of a long-running dispute.

Family doctors in Barnsley are among the last in the country to agree to form a new clinical commissioning group which will replace primary care trusts from next April.

GPs in the area initially wanted to set up three separate consortia under the Government’s controversial NHS reforms but were barred from going ahead because they were either too small or did not cover a clearly defined area.

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In February, the largest group covering around 150,000 patients, known as the Barnsley People’s First Consortium, withdrew altogether from talks involving senior national health service officials and even a conciliator who was drafted in to try to broker a deal.

Its leaders, representing 28 practices, wrote to the Prime Minister and other national figures complaining over their treatment, claiming £650,000 had been withheld to support development.

The end of the row means there will be 22 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the region – up from 14 primary care trusts (PCTs) – in configurations to be agreed at a meeting of the NHS Commissioning Board tomorrow. Their running costs will be £134m across Yorkshire, a third less than PCTs.

North Yorkshire, where the NHS has been beset by severe financial problems, will have four groups with a fifth straddling the border with Bradford. Leeds will have three and Bradford and Kirklees will have two each.

The remaining areas will have the same boundaries as existing PCTs although one practice in Pocklington in the East Riding is linking up with the Vale of York group and the High Bentham practice is joining colleagues in nearby Cumbria.

Sheffield will be the largest group serving nearly 570,000 people. The smallest is Bradford City covering 118,000 people.

GPs in Barnsley, Doncaster and North Kirklees will be in the final wave to be authorised and will only find out in January if they can assume powers from April. Groups which are not ready will be run by officials.

Barnsley was one of only two areas in the North which had failed to secure agreement. After GPs broke off talks, NHS bosses resorted to appeals to each practice in a final bid to open discussions.

Andy Buck, chief executive of NHS South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, said GPs in Barnsley were focussing on arrangements to secure authorisation. Some £1.1m was being made available to support them.