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As now, general practitioners (GPs) following our reforms may hold financial interests in organisations to which they refer patients or contract services. However, the Health and Social Care Bill proposes clear statutory duties on commissioners in relation to procurement and in relation to anti-competitive behaviours. A clear set of underpinning rules and guidance will be developed to apply to GP consortia, so that they have the necessary support to make decisions that are fair and transparent and avoid any perceived conflicts of interest.
In addition, the Bill also includes a requirement that each consortium's constitution sets out arrangements for decision-making and managing potential conflicts of interest.
Our proposed approach is that GP consortia should be able to proceed on the basis of assumed responsibility rather than earned autonomy. This will mean that consortia are free, within the legislative framework, to make the decisions that they judge are right for patients and value for money. However, there will be a clear duty on the NHS Commissioning Board, or if necessary, the economic regulator, to intervene if there are concerns that a consortium has not met its duties in relation to fairness and choice or has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.
In addition, GPs have to follow ethical guidance published by the General Medical Council, Good Medical Practice. This sets out that any commercial interests GPs have in organisations related to healthcare must not affect the way they prescribe, treat or refer patients. GPs must also inform the patient if they are referring them to an organisation in which they have a commercial interest.