IT support for commissioning needs to be driven by GP consortia, rather than being provided by the centre, the Primary Health Info conference heard.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, director of GP commissioning for NHS East of England and primary care lead for the King’s Fund, said GP consortia should follow US physician-led organisations, which designed their own information systems.

Dr Zollinger-Read, who sits on the NHS Commissioning Development Board, told the conference: “What comes out of commissioning support needs to be grown from the bottom up not dropped from the top down.”

However, Dr Zollinger-Read said he also understood that current thinking from the centre about what consortia would need to support them is that there will be a couple of commissioning support units.

The GP and former primary care trust chief executive said pathfinder consortia were “really moving ahead” despite the "pause" in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill that was called amid political controversy about the latest round of reforms.

However, he said their number one issue was getting hold of timely, accurate information.

He added: “When I was a PCT chief exec it was not unusual for data to be three months out of date, whereas in the US risk stratification is absolutely their lifeblood and they know exactly where their patients are on a daily basis.”

He said GP consortia also wanted to tackle variations in the performance of practices, which was identified as a key issue by a recent Kings Fund’s report on the quality of general practice.

He told the conference: “GP leaders in the pathfinders want to take on managing quality in primary care but want the tools to do it.”

He said peer review would be crucial but GP consortia would also need to be much more robust about audits.

Dr Zollinger-Read predicted that, despite the pause, the authorisation process for consortia would begin by the end of the summer and by next year the first groups would be up and running.