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New centres to tackle GP shortage

GPs will be attracted to the most underdoctored areas by the exciting prospect of working in state-of-the-art multipurpose primary care centres, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt believes.

She unveiled plans for the centres this week, which will include pharmacies, GP practices and fitness centres, to tackle GP shortages in the 30 most underdoctored PCTs.

Private companies, including supermarkets, NHS GPs and not-for-profit social enterprises, will be encouraged to bid for the contracts.

The first wave of the Fairness in Primary Care Procurement Programme is planned for Hartlepool, County Durham, Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

Asked what incentives would be offered to draw GPs to the new centres, Ms Hewitt said: 'GPs will find it very exciting to work in such a place. They have not wanted to work in disadvantaged areas before.'

GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'GPs have a cost-effective track record of providing top quality services for patients. They must be allowed to bid for the new resources on an equal footing with newcomers. What we do not want to see is any attempt to use this announcement as a back-door way of privatising the NHS.'

The Government announced plans for the national procurement in last year's Our Health, Our Care, Our Say white paper.

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