Exploring the GP ‘added value’ in commissioning

One of the main focusses of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (implemented from 2013) was on the development of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to replace Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in commissioning healthcare for their local populations. This report presents the findings from a second phase of our ongoing study following the development of CCGs in England since 2011.

In the first phase of this study (January 2011 to September 2012), we followed the development of CCGs from birth to authorisation i.e. from their involvement in the ‘pathfinder’ programme and officially becoming sub-committees of their local PCT Cluster until their authorisation in April 2013. One of the issues highlighted by our participants in the first phase of the study was the perception of GP ‘added value’. The aim of the second phase of our study was therefore to follow up those claims made in the first phase around issues of GP ‘added value’. We explored further the potential added value that clinicians, specifically GPs, bring to the commissioning process in interviews, and followed this up with observations of commissioners at work.

Our research used ‘Realist Evaluation’ (Pawson & Tilley, 1997). This approach involves: seeking out participants ‘programme theories’ as to how a particular policy or programme will bring about the desired outcomes; exploring the extent to which these programme theories ‘work’ in the real world; and examining in detail the mechanisms and contexts which underpin them. The
approach is often said to be exploring ‘what works, for whom, in what circumstances’? We applied this approach to GPs roles in CCGs, using interviews to find out what CCG leaders believe are the key aspects of their contribution to commissioning. We then observed a wide range of meetings in order to explore the extent to which the claims they made were borne out in practice, and to try to elucidate the important conditions which supported their roles.

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