As part of the NHS reforms England’s 152 PCTs will cease to exist from 2013 and will be replaced by around 500 clinical commissioning groups, which will be responsible for commissioning the majority of NHS services. As a result of the Future Forum’s recommendations the following key alterations have been made to the original proposals:

  • GP consortia will be renamed ‘clinical commissioning groups’ to reflect the fact that they will now include a wider range of health professionals.
  • Every clinical commissioning group will have a governing body including at least two lay members, one hospital doctor and one nurse. The rest of its clinical membership is being left open.
  • Clinical senates – made up of doctors, nurses and other professionals, including those from social care – will be set up to offer expert advice to commissioning groups.
  • The delivery of services by ‘any qualified provider’ will initially be restricted to ‘selected community services’. There will never be blanket coverage and some services such as A&E and critical care are unlikely to ever fall under this remit.
  • Monitor will focus on protecting and promoting patients’ interests, not promoting competition as an end in itself.

The amendments were welcomed by pharmacy bodies as good news for the profession, particularly the opening up of the membership of clinical commissioning groups to include other health professionals, and the emphasis on transparency and robust governance. Pharmacists will not have a seat on these bodies as of right, but will be able to earn a place based on their merits.