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GPs lose out on APMS contracts despite scoring higher than private firms

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs have lost out to private companies in the APMS bidding process after being under-cut by as much as 25%, despite being rated as offering substantially better services, Pulse can reveal.

A tender document obtained following the controversial decision to hand an APMS contract in Camden to US giant UnitedHealth shows that a rival bid from a group of local GPs was judged to offer superior core services.

But while the GPs were offering to provide services at a cost of £100 per patient, UnitedHealth offered a figure of under £75 a head, and won the tender from Camden PCT after ‘value for money' was taken into account.

And in Tower Hamlets PCT, a GP has claimed Atos Healthcare won an APMS tender after under-cutting one bid by 8% and another by even more – prompting an outcry from local doctors and patients, who took to the streets in protest this week.

GPs in further PCTs have also claimed their bids were superior but under-cut on cost, although not all have received detailed feedback as in Camden PCT.

Four GPs had bid for the one of the Camden practices after running it for the past six months. Dr Richard Halvorsen, one of the GPs, said: ‘I feel the PCT has betrayed our patients who are having privatised healthcare imposed.'

Camden PCT strongly refuted claims that the decision was purely based on cost, and said ‘it was clear from the beginning of the process that the PCT was seeking the best bid at the best price'.

Dr Pete Smith, director of Primary Care for UnitedHealth, said: ‘Like all primary care providers, we can only be successful if we deliver the high quality services demanded by patients and the PCT.'

But Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘Whatever the PCT says it is the price that wins.'

Last week a Pulse investigation revealed that GPs accounted for 51% of bids for APMS tenders, but were awarded a contract or preferred bidder status in less than one in 10 cases.

Dr Kambiz Boomla, a GP in Tower Hamlets, East London who was defeated by Atos Healthcare in a recent APMS bid, along with European GP of the year, Dr Sam Everington, said both bids were undercut by the firm.

Atos declined to comment.

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