Managing or managed? Experience of general practitioners in English Primary Care Groups and Trusts.
Locock L., Regen E., Goodwin N.
This article presents findings from a wider UK Department of Health funded evaluation of English Primary Care Groups (PCGs) and Trusts (PCTs). It presents qualitative research into the experiences of general practitioners (GPs) in these PCG/Ts and explores the extent to which GPs manage, or are managed by, these new organizations. Using the framework of stratification theory, the paper explores whether there is any evidence to suggest PCTs will strengthen collective medical control over resource allocation whilst fending off management control of clinical decision-making. It also examines whether individual GPs not involved at board level feel a loss of control over decisions and their own clinical practice. A stratified random sample of 20 GPs was selected for in-depth interview. The in-depth interviews were designed to capture the full complexity and variety of GPs' experiences that routinely available data could not capture. GPs were anxious that clinical decisions were, or could, be overridden by other concerns such as cost control. The extent to which primary care professionals leading PCGs and PCTs could fend off managerial control was doubted. However, whilst GPs felt under threat, this was more an anticipated threat than a reality. GPs within PCG/Ts seem prepared to accept a degree of standardization if they feel that this is consistent with good clinical care. However, although there was the impression of greater central control, PCGs and PCTs and Government policies did not appear to have made an impression on clinical autonomy.