Who Will Own GP Consortia?

I have been trying – and I confess failing – to try and get my head around a simple question: who owns (or rather will own) GP consortia? The legal status of these bodies may seem a bit pedantic, but it could have a fundamental affect on the dynamics of the New Model NHS. This is an issue that I haven’t seen properly discussed in any of the comment and analysis so far.

Most people forget, if they ever knew, that GPs are not NHS employees but independent contractors. Although some work in NHS premises, many (most?) own their own buildings and single or group GP practices are small businesses. Many GPs have already done very nicely by using NHS funding – quite legally – to improve buildings and businesses that they own.

Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are, on the other hand, publicly owned and controlled bodies. GP Consortia (let’s call them GPCs for short) seem to have a rather more ambiguous status. Are they public, or are they private, or some sort of hybrid?

The reason it matters of course is that if these GPCs are going to be managing 80% of the NHS budget, or £80bn in today’s budgets, what incentives will they have? If, for example, they are essentially private small businesses then the is every incentive for them to bias decisions in their favor. Because, when they are “commissioning” care they could, if the system allows this, commission themselves instead of NHS Trusts to provide services. This could be either as a GPC or, presumably, as GP practices? Either way, they could stand to make money, either directly or indirectly, from such decisions.

GPCs will also have, of course, a budget for running themselves. In some cases, they will presumably be collocated with GP practices. Again, how exactly will the private interests of the GPs who own these medical businesses be kept separate from the (presumably) public GPCs?

Now I am sure most GPs are good and honest folk with only the best interests of their patients and the taxpayers at heart. But some might not be, and the temptation could be very great indeed to cream off a little of that £80bn, could it not? Especially as it could almost certainly be justified as providing better local care for patients.

So I remain puzzled and dig as I might have so far been unable to establish just what the status of these GPCs will be. Maybe they will just be public bodies. Anybody else know?

2 thoughts on “Who Will Own GP Consortia?

  1. Interesting question. I’m not a lawyer, but…

    First, there seems to be no restriction on who can form a consortium, the requirements just seem to be:

    The application may be made by any two or more persons each of whom—
    (a) is or wishes to be a provider of primary medical services, and
    (b) wishes to be a member of the commissioning consortium.

    And then Schedule 1 seems to provide the answer to the status of consortiums, they are not crown bodies:

    7 (1) A commissioning consortium is a body corporate.
    (2) A commissioning consortium is not to be regarded as a servant or agent of the Crown or as enjoying any status, privilege or immunity of the Crown.
    (3) The property of a commissioning consortium is not to be regarded as property of, or property held on behalf of, the Crown.

    This section was also quite interesting… I guess it opens the door to private companies being involved however they wish:

    11 (1) The powers of a consortium include power to enter into externally financed development agreements.

    The above section is particularly interesting when combined with this one:

    15 The power conferred on a commissioning consortium by section 2 includes in particular power to—
    (a) enter into agreements,
    (b) acquire and dispose of property, and
    (c) accept gifts (including property to be held on trust for the purposes of the commissioning consortium).

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