14 July 2021
Health Bill must give primary care a seat at the table on commissioning
The Association of Optometrists (AOP), Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) and FODO The Association for Eye Care Providers have joined with partners across primary care to call on government to ensure wider primary care has a voice at all levels of the new NHS system starting with Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) set to be handed responsibility for commissioning hospital and community care and the primary care contract management functions.
The Health and Care Bill currently before Parliament would shift the responsibility for managing the contracts for primary NHS services, including general practice, general dental practice, community pharmacy and primary optometry services from NHS England to ICBs. Partners warn the current draft legislation risks leaving around 190,000 non-medical primary care professionals working in the NHS in England shut out of representation on the boards.
Together with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, The British Dental Association (BDA), and the National Community Hearing Association (NCHA), the optical bodies are pressing for change as the Bill heads for Second Reading in Parliament.
As it stands the Bill only requires that each ICB includes a member nominated by General Practice, with no insight from any of the other primary care professions. This is despite GPs accounting for only about a third of the primary care workforce in England.
To remedy this, during the passage of the Bill through Parliament partners are seeking the list of ‘Ordinary members' of ICBs in Schedule 2 (p. 127) amended to include an extra member nominated by clinicians providing non-medical NHS primary care services within the ICB's area.
The representative bodies for primary eye care and audiology - ABDO, the AOP, FODO and the NCHA said: "Optical practices and other primary care providers are vital to population health and care, and need a voice at all levels of the NHS in England. That's why we are working together and calling on MPs to include provisions in the Bill to make sure this happens starting with the new Integrated Care Boards."
BDA Chair, Eddie Crouch said: "Voices that make up three quarters of NHS primary care risks being lost in commissioning decisions that affect their services and the millions of patients they treat and serve every day. General practice simply cannot be expected to effectively represent the views, perspectives and distinct challenges facing colleagues in the wider NHS.
"We believe that for the benefit of patients and the NHS the crucial contribution non-medical primary care professionals make to the local health and care systems must be recognised and reflected at every level of the NHS, including within Integrated Care Boards.
"The only way this can happen effectively is if colleagues are guaranteed a seat at the table. That means a board presence drawn from non-medical primary care professions such as dentists, community pharmacists or optical professionals."