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Firm to set up practices

By Ian Cameron

One of the leading independent sector treatment centre pro-viders has unveiled plans for a major move into providing GP services.

Netcare, the South African firm best known here for its

mobile cataract units, wants to set up a network of practices, possibly including new super-surgeries.

The company also has plans to take on responsibility for practice management, administration and IT for practices.

Mark Adams, UK chief executive officer of Netcare, said running chronic disease management services, such as delivering 'outreach' lifestyle advice through call centres, clinics,

e-mail, text messaging and telemedicine, was on its agenda.

He said: 'It's not about delivering health care as it was. We want to get as big as we can in primary and secondary care.

'It may be all we do is administration, reception, scheduling patients, support staff, dispensing, with GPs working on their own with bureaucracy taken away from them. Equally we could have clusters of salaried doctors.'

He added: 'There is a big opportunity for the independent sector to support the NHS and be part of it.

'As long as we get high levels of clinical outcomes and value for money it's hard for anyone to argue against it.'

Netcare has already won contracts to run commuter walk-in centres at King's Cross, London, and in Leeds, and is currently bidding for six APMS contracts.

Mr Adams said co-locating dental and medical practices could be a means to driving up profits in smaller practices.

He added GPs would be given the option to remain independent contractors or become employees, and promised 'competitive' terms and conditions and pensions.

Dr George Rae, chair of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, said being taken over by a company like Netcare would be attractive to some GPs but should not be forced on practices.

He said: 'Primary care has got to have choice but I strongly feel GPs should also shape their own future.'

Dr Tony Calland, a GP in Monmouth and former GPC Wales chair, said companies such as Netcare were 'Trojan horses'.

He said: 'I think you are going to get more practices taken over and GPs will lose any possible ability to determine their own destiny. For patients it might be better in the short-term but with more profit-

making companies the range of services free at the point of delivery will be reduced.'

What's Netcare?

Netcare is best known in this country as the company behind mobile cataract units, but it also runs a surgical centre in Manchester for orthopaedic and general surgery. So far it has completed 44,500 procedures.

In South Africa it treats several million patients through 45 hospitals ­ akin to district general hospitals ­ and provides a full range of treatments from A&E and ambulance services, to diagnostics and radiology.

It also has 61 specialist medical centres and runs 53 primary care medical and dental centres.

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