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Independents' Day

Johnson admits new GP practices will be privately-run

By Gareth Iacobucci

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has gone on the record for the first time to confirm that the private sector will dominate the rollout of new GP services.

In an interview with the Guardian today, he admitted that a large number of the Government's 100 new GP practices and 150 GP-led health centres, which are being set up to improve access in so-called under-doctored areas, would come under private ownership , directly employing GPs rather than simply providing the premises.

The plans, which confirm Pulse's exclusive story last month, which revealed the health secretary's desire for a major new role for private firms, will open the door for the likes of Virgin, Asda and Tesco to run primary care as well as providing premises, and will highten GPs fears about the fairness of the bidding processes for the APMS-led practices.

Discussing the new centres, the health secretary said: ‘Lots of them will be run by the private sector. ‘We will bring in GPs employed by private organisations.'

The health secretary's confirmation of the Government's plans follows the recent controversy in Tower Hamlets, where private firm Atos was awarded a new APMS contract ahead of top-performing local GPs, including the Government's own lead adviser on access, Dr Sam Everington.

The GPC last week accused the Government of paving the way for private firms to dominate the rollout of new surgeries, as anger grows over perceived bias against GPs in the tender process.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC vice-chair said the bidding process for APMS services was a 'David and Goliath' scenario that was 'very much slanted against local practices.'

He said: ‘The Government has no interest in local practices being able to provide these services, this is simply about looking for big business to provide services in a completely different way to the traditional general practice that patients know and love.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman confirmed that the Government was looking to private companies to run the new centres, but said that the procurement process was ‘open to anyone, whether it's the private sector or NHS GPs.'

Alan Johnson: health secretary to put private bosses in management chair Alan Johnson: health secretary to put private bosses in management chair

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