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GPs fall at first hurdle in bidding for Darzi polyclinics

By Steve Nowottny

GPs are being frozen out of bidding for the new wave of polyclinics, with fears that up to half of GP-led bids are falling at the first hurdle.

PCTs appear to be blocking GPs from even submitting bids in some cases, as they are screened out before the tendering process has even begun.

Last week was the deadline for PCTs to evaluate Pre Qualifying Questionnaires - the first step in the procurement process.

The PQQ stage requires bidders only to provide evidence of their financial standing and clinical expertise, and passing it is often seen as a formality.

But of 14 GPs who told Pulse they had applied for a polyclinic contract, almost half said their bid was no longer being considered.

The rejection of bids, which represent hundreds of established GPs across the country, will fuel fears that local GPs may miss out in the process to the private sector.

One GP bidder, who asked not to be named, said he was appealing to his PCT after being rejected at the PQQ stage.

He said: ‘We put together a comprehensive bid, got management consultants, and thought it was cast-iron to get past PQQ. We didn't, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth to say the least.

‘We represent about 150 GPs in about 30-40 practices. In other words we are the local GP population, no more, no less. They're saying to us, on the face of it, you're not even qualified to put in a tender. That is remarkable.'

Another GP, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told Pulse his bid as part of a large GP consortium had been put on hold at the Invitation to Tender stage as the SHA had decided to ‘rewrite' the tender document.

Details of the 14 GP bids emerged in a Pulse survey of 100 GPs this week.

Health ministers have repeatedly stated they expect contracts for most of the 150 GP-led health centres and 113 new APMS surgeries to go to GP consortiums, but past experience of APMS suggests GPs have struggled to compete.

Dr Elka Elston, a GP in Immingham, near Grimsby, said her group of local GPs was hopeful it would be shortlisted to run the local GP-led health centre. But she warned even large groups of experienced GPs faced an uphill struggle.

‘I know there've been about 15 different groups interested, most of them private companies,' she said.

PCTs are slamming the door on a large proportion of GP bids PCTs are slamming the door on a large proportion of GP bids

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