Primary care trust staff who will be needed to make GP commissioning consortia work are already leaving the NHS, MPs have been told.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee, told an inquiry into commissioning by the House of Commons Health Committee that fears of a large scale loss of skills from PCTs were becoming a reality.

He said: “We have already got examples where whole departments of people have accepted redundancy terms and will be leaving very early on.”

Dr Vautrey told MPs that some of the redundancies involved “the very people we will need to make these changes work.”

He said a clear message was needed from the centre that the skills of many PCT managers were needed and their future should lie with the new GP organisations.

He added: “What we don’t want is for the best managers to leave for large, multi-national firms – only to have to hire them back at an inflated rate of pay.

"Add on their redundancy payments as well; that would be a disaster for the NHS as a whole and very costly.”

Professor Steve Field, chair of the RCGP, also gave evidence to the Health Committee. He said the key to retaining the right staff would be managing the transition from PCTs to GP commissioning consortia.

He added: “There are some fantastic PCT managers at all levels – they are just not everywhere across the country – and we want to make sure we don’t lose them.”

However, Dr James Kingsland, president of the National Association of Primary Care, told MPs it was more important to focus on why world class commissioning had failed and what GP commissioning would need to make it work.

He added: “We are at risk of being sanitised by this huge HR headache of losing or reaccommodating NHS management, and of not focusing on what is the real issue of the transition.”

Michael Sobanja, chief executive of the NHS Alliance, told the committee that the Alliance also wanted the changes to be driven locally and not from the top down.

He said: “My advice to PCT managers would be to start a dialogue with your GP commissioning colleagues and work together to develop this.”

A survey by EHI Primary Care this summer found that almost 40% of the 400 respondents working in PCTs and strategic health authorities believed they would lose their job as a result of the changes outlined in the white paper, ‘Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS.’ 

Many also expressed concern about a loss of skills, particularly in IT and information analysis. Yet only a minority believed that the latest reform of the health service would improve patient care or deliver other benefits.