On Monday health sector regulator, Monitor launched an examination of the ‘commissioning and provision of GP services’ to determine the extent to which they are ‘operating in the best interests of patients’.   

The review will focus on ‘patients’ ability to access GP services, including their ability to switch practices’ and the ‘ability for new and existing providers of GP services to develop the scope of the NHS services they offer, including in new locations’.  It will also look at ‘new models of primary care that local health communities are planning or considering and the potential barriers to these being implemented’.

Monitor said that the call for evidence is ‘an exploratory exercise aimed at better understanding the challenges faced by an important part of the health sector at a time when it is operating under increased pressure.  It is not an investigation under our formal enforcement powers’.

A number of the areas covered in this call for evidence were also raised in Monitor’s Fair Playing Field Review published in March this year.  This review looked into the ‘extent to which all potential providers of NHS care have a fair opportunity to offer their services to patients’.  Issues raised included ‘perceived conflicts of interest that may in future prevent CCGs from commissioning services from new entrants and concerns about a lack of choice of general practitioners for patients’.

Monitor would like to hear from patients, commissioners, providers of primary and secondary care, regulatory organisations, local authorities and professional and representative bodies and any other interested stakeholders. Responses should be sent to GPservices@monitor.gov.uk by 1 August.

Monitor’s preliminary findings and next steps, if any, will be published in autumn 2013. 

For further information on the call for evidence, you can listen to Monitor’s podcast where Catherine Davies, director of cooperation and competition at Monitor, introduces the call for evidence and invites you to submit your views.