RCGP ‘commissioning champion’ quits over rationing

 A ‘commissioning champion’ at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has resigned in protest at the rationing of NHS referrals.

Senior GP Helena McKeown, a member of the RCGP’s council, said she could not continue working as an advocate for GP commissioning because she was “too disillusioned” with NHS reform.

GPs were being “set up to fail” in budgetary terms and forced to move “too close to breaching good medical practice” by the new system, she argued.

The RCGP’s Centre for Commissioning was launched in December 2010 with a £1.7m grant from the DH to help the new GP consortia (now called CCGs) develop the skills and expertise needed for commissioning.

Dr McKeown insisted her resignation was not due to any disagreement with the RCGP – rather, she was “a GP-commissioner advocate who has become too disillusioned to be associated with the reality”.

GPs will not be able to “commission to make best use of resources”, she argued, when they are financially rewarded for reducing referrals and CCGs impose on them systems requiring third-party approval.

“I am happy to discuss referrals and peer review and share learning, I am not happy to put my patients at risk, at the limits of my clinical competencies, nor to be seen as a supporter of such schemes,” she said.

In the long term, Dr McKeown concluded, the new system was designed to “undermine” the role of the GP as “patient advocate”.

RCGP Chairwoman Clare Gerada said McKeown’s resignation reflected the fact that GPs were being required to participate in “rationing care” against the interests of their patients.