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Meldrum's perfect timing on Darzi centre bid

When it was revealed in January that BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum had personally won an APMS contract to run one of the first GP-led health centres, it’s fair to say more than a few eyebrows were raised.

By Steve Nowottny

When it was revealed in January that BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum had personally won an APMS contract to run one of the first GP-led health centres, it's fair to say more than a few eyebrows were raised.

It wasn't just that Dr Meldrum had overseen the BMA's high-profile Support Your Surgery campaign, which collected more than 1.3 million patient signatures as it lobbied, if not against GP-led health centres themselves, then against their imposition.

Dr Meldrum had also personally taken the stand against the new centres. On 16 October last year, he gave evidence to MPs as part of the Health Committee's inquiry into the NHS Next Stage Review – and his arguments were fairly unambiguous.

‘Some areas certainly need additional GP services but other areas do not,' he said - adding that his own local GP-led health centres was in an area that did not.

‘They decided to put it in Bridlington, where actually, though I say so myself, GP services are reasonably good and it is not going to help about 80% of the population in East Yorkshire, whereas Hull, down the road, could perhaps do with two or three.'

‘By saying that you are going to set up polyclinics or GP-led health centres in areas where they are not needed and where you could actually support local practices instead, then that is a threat to general practice in those areas.'

APMS contracts, too, came in for criticism. While they could be appropriate in some cases, said Dr Meldrum, ‘there is quite a bit of evidence from some of the APMS-led services that they are not so good. They tend to use employed doctors rather than doctors who have a real interest. They may go through a succession of doctors too.'

Strong stuff. So the question on everyone's lips was – how did he square such public opposition to GP-led health centres with simultaneously bidding through his own practice to run one?

An answer of sorts came this week in a response to a Freedom of Information query from Dr Meldrum's local PCT, NHS East Riding of Yorkshire. When, Pulse asked, had the consortium of which Dr Meldrum was part submitted its bid? Surely, given the tight deadlines of the procurement, it couldn't have been long after Dr Meldrum gave evidence to the Health Committee on Thursday 16 October?

Not long at all, it turned out. NHS East Riding of Yorkshire received the consortium's completed Invitation to Tender on Friday 17 October.

Coincidence? Quite possibly. After all, Dr Meldrum has consistently insisted that while his practice was part of the bid, he had minimal personal involvement.

But in politics, timing is everything.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum Recent posts

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