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LMCs conference

Drive for private providers 'has gone too far'

The Government's drive to draft in private providers has gone far beyond its original remit to improve standards in under-doctored areas, the conference heard.

GPs demanded that alternative providers should only be introduced into general practice where there was an identified need – and insisted existing providers had to be given a chance to develop services.

The calls follow a Pulse survey two weeks ago which found PCTs were rushing to strike deals with private companies, with one in three planning to have a contract in place by the end of the year.

GPs warned the large-scale privatisation of primary care would result in higher costs, reduced accountability and increased fragmentation.

Delegates insisted GPs needed equal access to funding, a fair bidding process and the right of appeal against any decisions. And they demanded that any private or third-party pro-vider should be required to meet the same expectations and quality as current NHS providers.

Dr George Rae, for Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, said APMS was 'increasingly being used in singlehanded vacancies' beyond its original remit.

He accused the Government of introducing 'destructive discomfort' in primary care and added: 'We simply do not know the full scale of this Government's plans surrounding an internal market.

'The use of alternative pro-viders must only occur where there is an identified need and existing providers have been given the chance.'

Dr Charles Zuckerman from Birmingham LMC said: 'You don't need to be a rocket

scientist to work out that if

you alter the foundations of

the NHS the consequences could be complicated and


But health minister Lord Warner told the conference alternative providers were necessary because access to primary care services still varied unacceptably.

He insisted he was 'committed to a level playing field, as many GPs asked me to ensure' and said GPs were 'not afraid of competition'.

Dr Preston de Mendonca from Devon LMC insisted that GPs had nothing to fear from external providers.

'General practice is good, it's strong. There is nothing wrong with APMS that a dose of equity cannot fix.'

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