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Darzi centres will have to poach GPs' patients to survive

By Gareth Iacobucci

Lord Darzi's GP-led health centres will have to poach up a fifth of GPs' patients if they are to avoid becoming white elephants, new research reveals.

Leading academics at the Health Services Management Centre in Birmingham warned the new centres were designed to replace rather than supplement existing services.

Their report also criticised the Government for demanding all PCT's procure a new centre regardless of need, rather than targeting new capacity in areas of high deprivation.

Managers interviewed by the researchers at one PCT estimated that more than 20% of the local population would need to switch GP to ensure the viability of its APMS centres.

Professor Chris Ham, professor of health policy and management at the University Of Birmingham, who led the research, said unless the centres attracted large numbers of existing GP practices' patients, they would fail.

‘We don't know how much appetite there is on the part of patients to switch practices. So there's clearly a possibility PCTs will be funding new capacity that will be under utilised.

‘Unless more effort is put in to publicising availability, we think it's unlikely you'll get the degree of patient switching necessary to make some of these new facilities viable.'

Professor Ham admitted there was a risk new providers entering the market might ‘unintentionally destabilise existing providers delivering a high standard of care to patients'.

But he added: ‘The whole rationale is to challenge some of the existing practices that might be coasting along to improve their performance.'

The research concluded the nationwide tendering processes had paid far more attention to stimulating competition among GPs than enhancing patient choice, with many patients still largely unaware of the right to switch practice. It also revealed serious gaps in the commissioning skills of PCTs.

Lord Darzi: his centres will have to poach GPs' patients to survive Lord Darzi: his centres will have to poach GPs' patients to survive

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