Total purchasing, community and continuing care: lessons for future policy developments in the NHS
The introduction of total purchasing pilots (TPPs) into the National Health Service (NHS) gave general practitioners (GPs) significant new opportunities to take responsibility for the development of community and continuing care (CCC) services. Based on five case studies of TPPs involved in developing CCC this paper asks three questions: (1) to what extent were the TPP’s involvement in CCC informed by an awareness of CCC policy?; (2) were TPPs involved in joint commissioning to develop integrated purchasing or provision which was informed by population based needs assessment?; (3) were TPPs seeking to involve users, carers and voluntary agencies in their plans? The findings indicate that TPPs showed little awareness of national or local policy for CCC, although their project initiatives did address some of the policy issues (in particular a recognition of the need for joint working at the practice level). At the time of fieldwork, four of the case study TPPs had begun to investigate the potential for integrated purchasing, and three of them had relatively sophisticated models of both horizontally and vertically integrated provision of care. However, the TPPs developments were not based on systematic population based needs assessment. The paper concludes that there is potential for the primary care led groups proposed in the recent white papers in England, Scotland and Wales to improve integration of care both horizontally and vertically. However, they may need policy guidance and push to: encourage them to put CCC high on their agenda for action; to work with people with expertise in population based, prevention focused, needs assessment; and to find innovative ways to include users, carers and voluntary agencies. Incentives or levers (such as control over budgets) may be needed to promote joint working between staff in different agencies.