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Forced rollout of Darzi centres 'is putting private firms off'

By Nigel Praities

The forced introduction of Darzi centres risks is actively discouraging private sector involvement in primary care, say academics.

The paper from primary care researchers at the University of Birmingham says the Government's drive to stimulate competition between providers is likely to back-fire as private providers are concerned about the financial viability of the contracts on offer.

The editorial – published in the British Medical Journal today – outlines the results so far in the bidding process for GP-led health centres and notes that the main beneficiaries seem to be a new breed of GP entrepreneurs rather than the private sector, as Pulse revealed last year.

‘Corporate providers are unlikely to have the local knowledge, networks, and visibility of local GPs. This can make it hard to show commissioners how they will establish themselves within the local community and make links to other providers.'

The paper goes on to say private providers struggle to develop financially viable bids, due to the financial climate and the demands of PCTs to only pay for the patients they attract.

'Some PCTs are expecting successful bidders to assume a greater degree of financial risk over time, based on their ability to attract patients. Providers are reassessing their willingness to take on this risk, especially in areas where primary medical care services are already well provided,' it says.

The extra capacity generated by the GP-led health centres would have to be managed carefully if Government's policies are to deliver real benefits for patients, concludes the researchers from the Health Services Management Centre in Birmingham.

The Hillside Bridge Centre in Bradford - the first GP-led health centre to open

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