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'Big boys' will win out

Most practices will find it impossible to compete with corporate giants in tendering for new primary care services, the GP lead of a major private provider is warning.

Dr Rory McCrea, chair of ChilversMcCrea Healthcare, said small practices would be 'stretched beyond belief' in bidding for alternative provider medical services contracts.

Even consortia of practices would struggle because the tender process was 'burdensome' and far too complicated, he added.

Dr McCrea's comments back GPs' claims they cannot compete on a level playing field with firms such as J Sainsbury and UnitedHealth Europe and that PCTs are discouraging GP bids by making the process so complex.

GPs in Derbyshire recently condemned a decision to award contracts for two surgeries to US-based UnitedHealth Europe, even though it had never run a UK practice.

Tenders for APMS contracts are set to increase dramatically as a result of the recent Our Health, Our Care, Our Say White Paper.

Dr McCrea said even his firm, which won the first-ever APMS contract and is shortlisted in all six Government pilot areas for new APMS schemes, announced last July, found tendering a 'stretch'.

Dr McCrea, who practises in Waltham Abbey, Essex, said: 'The procurement wave in the pilot areas is far too burdensome for the size of contracts offered, and the speed at which they want to tender is out of kilter.'

ChilversMcCrea recently allied with independent treatment sector provider Mercury Health to increase its resources.

GPs called on PCTs to give greater weight in future tenders for new GP services to the continuity of care and local knowledge they could provide.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Harrow, Middlesex, said stressing the 'staying power' of local GPs against commercial pro-viders' short-term plans could make the process fairer.

He said: 'GPs put in an enormous investment of time and a sense of accountability and loyalty that a big company operating from remote control does not recognise.'

Dr Stewart Drage, GPC negotiator, said GPs often found it hard to see how they could win.

'The big guys are able to produce glossy brochures and understanding comes from experience and knowing how to nav- igate the politics.'

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