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PCTs to retain clinical leadership role

Published on 13/09/06 at 03:58pm

Professional executive committees, the bodies once seen as the engine room for reform of the NHS, are to be retained in primary care trusts, despite government doubts about their effectiveness.

In a candid letter to England's new regional NHS leaders, the Department of Health's head of commissioning, Duncan Selbie, said PECs had suffered from having too vague a remit, and that while some flourished, others had simply "withered".

The advent of practice-based commissioning means clusters of GP practices are now expected to be the driving force behind NHS reform, leaving the role of PECs even more uncertain.

But despite the failure of many PECs to deliver greater change, their role is written into legislation, and thus scrapping them was not an option. Instead, every PCT must now consult on how to make the most of their PECs, with the reformed bodies ready to start work next April.

For PCTs which are not merging in October (including those in London and other urban areas), existing PECs can be retained, but newly merged trusts must appoint new members.

The NHS Alliance has applauded the news the bodies will be kept, saying the decision will provide continuity and stability amidst upheaval and change.

Dr Michael Dixon, NHS Alliance chairman, said: "Without powerful leadership from practising clinicians integrated within the structure of the new PCTs, NHS reforms risk fragmentation of services and will fail to deliver any real change or benefits. The Department of Health has acted swiftly and effectively to avoid that risk. "


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