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'No say for patients on private firms'

PCTs should not have to consult patients if they plan to bring in private firms to take over GP surgeries, the Government has told the High Court, writes Anna Hodgekiss.

In evidence to a landmark judicial review, which will have huge implications for primary care policy, lawyers for Patricia Hewitt said private pro-viders were simply 'another option of service re-provision'.

The judicial review is looking at North Eastern Derbyshire PCT's choice of US firm UnitedHealth to run the Langwith and Creswell practices.

Pam Smith, a patient at Langwith, has claimed the PCT breached section 11 of the 2001 Health and Social Care Act because it did not properly consult patients.

Javan Herberg, appearing for the Health Secretary, said section 11 was unnecessary when it was 'merely' a change of provider.

He said: 'It's a question of where the threshold to apply it lies. When a doctor retires, it is simply a matter of re-provision, not section 11.'

David Pittaway QC, appearing for the PCT, questioned what consulting patients could have achieved. 'It is difficult to see where the public would have a role,' he said.

But Eleanor Grey QC appearing for Mrs Smith argued re-

provision could mean 'five locum doctors for each day of the week'.

Mr Justice Collins reserved judgment. Summing up, he said: 'We need to decide where to draw the line, and assess the effect on patients.'

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