§ Mr. Alexander
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to review the efficiency of administration of the family practitioner services in England and Wales in the light of recent developments in information technology.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The administration of the family practitioner services in England and Wales involves a number of bodies—98 family practitioner committees, the National Health Service central register, the Dental Estimates Board and the Prescription Pricing Authority — whose working arrangements and interrelationships have not been studied as a whole for many years. New developments in information technology suggest that such a study is desirable and we propose to invite management consultants, working with our Department and the Welsh Office, to review the administration of the family practitioner services. The aim of the study will be to recommend a pattern of administration which will meet the needs of the public, practitioners and the various public agencies involved in the most efficient and economical way.402W
The terms for the study will be:To examine the functions of Family Practitioner Committees, the National Health Service Central Register, the Dental Estimates Board and the Prescription Pricing Authorities in the administration of the family practitioner services (FPS), with particular reference to patient registration and methods of calculating and making payments due to professional contractors; to review the potential for measures, including development of the use of computers, to promote efficiency and effectiveness of administration in the FPS and to facilitate exchange of information between the bodies concerned in FPS administration, professional contractors, Regional and District Health Authorities, Government Departments and other interested persons and organisations (including the provision of information for planning, clinical and research proposals); to assess the costs and benefits of proposals for change; and to recommend a strategy for the use of computers and other developments in the administration of the FPS over the next 10 to 15 years.
I should emphasise that the study will not call into question the status of general medical practitioners, general dental practitioners, opticians and pharmacists as independent contractors, the methods of determining their remuneration, or the status of FPCs as proposed in the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill which is now before the House.
Tenders for the work will be invited shortly from selected consultancy firms with a view to a report being available early next year.