Charities urged to link with GPs before health commissioning reforms

By John Plummer, Third Sector Online, 24 August 2011

GPs are open to collaboration with the third sector

GPs are open to collaboration with the third sector

Many doctors would welcome help of sector organisations, say academics

Charities should create links with GPs now to capitalise on opportunities when commissioning is devolved to them, according to an academic article on health commissioning and charities.

GP Commissioning: Implications for the Third Sector says GP consortia will "warm to the social value and reinvestment of surplus of the third sector".

Helen Dickinson, a lecturer in healthcare policy and management at the University of Birmingham, and Robin Miller, a senior fellow at the Third Sector Research Centre, wrote the article, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Voluntary Sector Review.

According to the Department of Health, 35,000 third sector organisations deliver health and/or social care worth £4.7bn.

Dickinson and Miller say the abolition of primary care trusts will jeopardise existing arrangements and some GPs might take a narrow view of care that ignores voluntary sector providers.

But they argue there are opportunities for charities with strong roots in communities to assist GPs in establishing engagement processes with patients, which in turn could help them shape services according to their beneficiaries’ needs.

They also suggest some GPs will welcome the sector’s involvement.

"While many GPs are comfortable with the private sector, the concerns of many members of medical representative bodies, such as the British Medical Association regarding the involvement of profit-making companies, suggest that they will warm to the social value and reinvestment of surplus of the third sector," they write.

"Third sector organisations need to start making links with GPs and consortia to discuss their potential roles in future arrangements."

Dickinson said the article was written before the government ‘pause’ on health reform, but the conclusions were still valid.

She added she hoped the Third Sector Research Centre would undertake more research on charities and health reforms in the autumn.

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