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Government backs GP franchises run by supermarkets

By Gareth Iacobucci

Controversial plans to forcibly convert GP practices into franchises, run by the likes of Virgin, Asda and Tesco, have been backed by health minister Ben Bradshaw.

Proposals first mooted by Heart of Birmingham PCT last month, which include moving 76 separate practices into 24 polyclinic-style ‘primary care units', have been described as ‘frightening' by Birmingham LMC and condemned by the BMA as ‘ludicrous'.

But comments from Mr Bradshaw appear to increase the chances of similar schemes becoming a national proposition.

He said: ‘Improving the quality and flexibility of GP services is a priority for the public. I applaud initiatives such as Birmingham's to respond to the views and needs of the local community and modernise primary care services.'

The Department of Health confirmed his backing of the plan, in which Heart of Birmingham PCT makes the case for bringing in ‘trusted brand names' such as Virgin, Tesco and Asda to take on franchises ‘within weeks and months'

Pulse reported last week how the Government is expected to push ahead with a major new role for private providers, as employers of GPs not just providers of the bricks and mortar.

The BMA advised GPs in the area to ‘stick together and work with the LMC'.

‘It is not good for patients and not good for doctors', said a spokesperson.

It denied telling a national newspaper that GPs who resisted plans to be herded into franchises were ‘doomed.'

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