Objective -To evaluate general practitioner participation in a district health authority's purchasing work.
Design -Questionnaire study of 131 Hackney general practitioners and 33 senior health service managers; review of the minutes of 28 meetings of the Hackney General Practitioners' Forum and the contract between City and Hackney Health Authority and the St Bartholomew's NHS Trust.
Setting -Hackney General Practitioners' Forum.
Main outcome measures -General practitioners' and managers' perceptions of how representative and effective the general practitioners' forum is; proportion of new quality targets and service developments contributed by general practitioners; main issues discussed by the forum and impact on district health authority policy.
Results -99 (76%) general practitioners and 27 (82%) managers responded. Both groups perceived the forum as representative. 92% (24/26) of the managers thought the forum was effective but only 74% (70/95) of general practitioners did so, largely because some doubted that the forum was listened to. 75% (103/138) of quality targets and 55% (16/29) of service developments planned in the 1993-4 contract were contributed by general practitioners. They also lobbied successfully for more resources for urology and community mental health services.
Conclusions -Input into commissioning via a general practitioners' forum can be both representative and effective. General practitioners need to work closely to achieve a consensus and those involved need administrative support. The relation between general practice and public health medicine needs to be strengthened.