Surgeons warn over NHS reforms
Standards of patient care may be compromised if GPs focus on "the lowest price" rather than quality when it comes to health spending, the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) has warned.
The independent body called on greater clarity from the Government on the role of doctors following sweeping health reforms that will see the introduction of a clinician-led service.
RCS President John Black said explicit minimum standards of care need to be set out by ministers to avoid GPs entering into a "race to the bottom" where price squeezes out quality.
In an analysis of the Coalition's Health Bill ahead of its second reading before parliament on Monday, he said: "Alongside colleagues in the other Medical Royal Colleges, I am concerned that some of the aspirations for a clinician-led health service envisaged by the Health Secretary are not borne out by the legislation as currently drafted.
"We are concerned that minimum standards of care are not set out in the new arrangements to introduce greater competition. It is quite right that the government seeks the best value in health spending, but this needs greater detail if we are to avoid a 'race to the bottom' with price squeezing out quality."
Under the flagship bill, published earlier this month, GPs will be handed power over commissioning treatment worth £80 billion. A new independent NHS Commissioning Board will allocate budgets and oversee the reformed service.
Mr Black also called on the Government to give more detail on how the new board would be constituted, and criticised the fact that it "includes no formal requirements for clinician representation at the highest level.
"This new system will only fulfil the expectations invested in it if practising clinicians of all specialities are able to co-ordinate, and engagement between commissioning consortia and local hospitals needs to be included as a responsibility," he added.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "There will be no compromise on quality. Our plans to modernise the NHS are firmly focused on improving quality so that all will have better healthcare.
"The NHS Commissioning Board will allocate resources and it will also have an explicit statutory duty to promote quality improvement. National consistency in quality standards will come through commissioning guidelines, based on clinical evidence from Nice."