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GP anger over APMS bias towards private firms

By Gareth Iacobucci

The GPC has accused the Government of paving the way for private firms to dominate the rollout of new surgeries as anger grows over GPs being shut out of the tender process.

Guidance on how PCTs should strive to maximise cost savings in the procurement of 100 new GP practices and 150 health centres was branded the clearest indication yet that the Government was biased towards private firms.

At the same time Tower Hamlets LMC has issued a vote of no confidence in its PCT following the decision, exclusively revealed by Pulse last month, to hand private company company ATOS a new APMS contract, ahead of local GPs, including the Government's own lead adviser on access, Dr Sam Everington.

The GPC stepped up its battle with the Government after the Department issued new guidance on PCT procurement, which it says should be done almost exclusively through APMS contracts.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC vice-chair, said it demonstrated that the they had ‘no interest in local practices being able to provide these services'.

A DH Spokeswoman confirmed that APMS was at the centre of its plans: ‘We have asked PCTs to undertake open and transparent procurements, and we expect that they will typically use the APMS contracting route to do this. APMS gives a high degree of flexibility in developing innovative forms of service delivery. We have deliberately kept the requirements for APMS contracts to a minimum so that it remains a flexible instrument that can be adapted to meet local circumstances.'

In Tower Hamlets the decision to select ATOS ahead of Dr Everington, reigning European GP of the Year and former BMA deputy chair, has sparked outrage among local GPs.

The company, which already runs two NHS walk-in centres at Manchester Piccadilly and Canary Wharf, and a general practice in Shinfield, West Berkshire, will take over running of the practice from the end of January, offering extended opening hours of 8 - 8 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 - 5 pm on Saturday, as well as providing a daytime walk-in-centre facility.

Dr Sella Shanmugadasan, chair of Tower Hamlets LMC, said: ‘It has become clear that the PCT is only concerned with the bidder able to offer the best value for money.

‘The LMC is extremely worried that Atos Healthcare has underestimated the resources needed in this practice and they have limited experience of running a primary care surgery, which can only result in a poor quality service for patients.'

Despite repeated requests by Pulse, Atos declined to comment.

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