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GP and patients vow to take legal action after PCT decides not to award practice contract to incumbent doctor

Challenge over practice transfer

By Christian Duffin

Patients at a practice that is about to be taken over are to launch a legal challenge against their PCT's decision not to award the contract to the incumbent salaried GP.

The patients believe they were not properly consulted by Stoke-on-Trent PCT on its decision to give the contract for the Moss Green Surgery to another practice in the city.

They have formed a 14-strong campaign group to try to get the decision overturned in favour of salaried GP Dr Reis Cotta, who had also bid.

As well as legal action, the group has sent a 600-name petition to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and has the backing of local Labour MP Mark Fisher.

Dr Cotta is also considering legal action himself and has the support of the BMA.

The cases will draw on the landmark Court of Appeal judgment last year against Eastern Derbyshire PCT. It had chosen US firm UnitedHealth to run two GP practices but was forced to re-tender after the Court of Appeal ruled it had not properly consulted patients.

The Stoke campaigners argued there were irregularities in the process of awarding the contract for the formerly PCT-managed practice to the Moorcroft Medical Centre.

One concern they have raised is that a GP at the Moorcroft practice, Dr Steve Fawcett, is the PCT's professional executive committee chair.

Ian Dyke, chair of the Moss Green Patient Participation Group, said this represented a conflict of interest.

Mr Dyke said patients were concerned that Moorcroft would not provide the same GPs all the time, whereas giving

Dr Cotta the contract would ensure continuity of care.

He said: 'There are 5,000 patients here who want a dedicated surgery, not one where there will be different doctors all the time. What the PCT has done is wrong.'

Mr Dyke was on the panel deciding on the award of the contract. He said the outcome was decided on a show of hands rather than a more sophisticated points scoring method which would have favoured Dr Cotta.

North Staffordshire LMC chair Dr Paul Golik, who sat in on the interviews, said only a relatively small group of patients objected. He said: 'As far as I can see, the process was as fair as it could be.'

Neither Dr Fawcett nor Dr Cotta wished to comment.

A PCT spokesperson said a Strategic Health Authority review of the selection process showed it was robust and fair.

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