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GPs demand PCT apology over naming and shaming

PCTs are facing an 'unprecedented' challenge to balance their books due to the introduction of a swathe of untested Government policies, a report by public spending watchdogs has concluded.

The joint report by the National Audit Office and Audit Commission found 27 PCTs had a 'significant' deficit in 2003/4, up from 11 the year before.

A further 14 failed to hit their budget.

James Strachan, chair of the Audit Commission, said that although current deficits were small in comparison with overall NHS budgets, PCTs risked 'a continuous year-on-year deterioration'.

Agenda for Change, the GMS contract, payment by results and patient choice were 'significant challenges' to PCTs' ability to reach financial balance, he said.

The Department of Health's annual report also published this week said the NHS was

expected to make 'very significant' efficiency gains of £6.5 billion in the next three

years.

Andy McKeon, managing director for health at the Audit Commission, said practice-based commissioning was also a risk to PCTs.

'It will be different, it will be a new environment with patient choice, and it will

need to be managed,' he said.

Dr Mo Dewji, head of primary care contracting at the department, said practice-based commissioning would help PCT finances by getting 'real value for money'.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GPC member and a GP in Uxbridge, Middlesex, said more competition and private sector involvement would 'lead to enormous fluctuations in financial flows'.

By Ian Cameron

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