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Government reveals its hand on Q&O overhaul

Foundation hospitals are considering radical plans to take over GP surgeries, Pulse can reveal.

The NHS Confederation's policy group, the Foundation Trusts Network, admitted trusts across the country were considering the move in order to take greater control of local health care.

But GPs said if hospitals started swallowing up surgeries it would 'spell the end of the NHS as we know it'.

Sue Slipman, director of the Foundation Trust Network, said the Government's NHS policies had paved the way for foundation hospitals to take over practices.

She said: 'People are thinking about what the options are. If you look at the Government plans all of the traditional boundaries are likely to disappear and change shape.'

She conceded that any move to tie up purchaser and provider roles in one organisation would require an overhaul of NHS regulations.

She said: 'There will need to be regulations to stop the growth of cartels but that's possible as long as that supports patient choice.'

Simon Stevens, the Prime Minister's health adviser between 1997 and 2004 and now president of Evercare-pioneer United Health Europe, said the move was on the cards.

But he warned funds could get 'sucked' from primary to secondary care. He said: 'The NHS should be quite cautious about hospitals running mainstream general practice.'

Dr Mike Dixon, NHS Alliance chair, said senior staff at a number of trusts had told him they were considering taking over practices.

He said GPs had to take on practice-based commissioning before trusts started to make a move. He said: 'We need to form a counter-revolution and make sure GPs are leading the way and ensure this doesn't happen.'

Dr Brian Balmer, Essex LMCs chair and a GPC member, said foundation trusts were being 'arrogant'.

He said: 'If that happened it would spell the end of primary care as we know it and create an NHS where all that happened was people got in an ambulance and went to a hospital and nothing else.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it had 'no plans' to allow foundation trusts to take over practices.

By Joe Lepper

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