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One in four GP led health centre contracts won by private sector

By Steve Nowottny

One in four of the new wave of polyclinics being rolled out across England has been won by private sector companies, Pulse can reveal.

The latest results of the tendering process show that 14 of the 54 GP-led health centre contracts so far announced have been won by private companies or groups led by the independent sector.

The wins represent a significant expansion of private sector primary care provision – and follow Pulse's revelation last month that private companies had submitted almost 1,800 expressions of interest to run GP-led health centres.

But local GPs also performed strongly in the tendering process, with GP-led consortiums winning 30% of contracts and a further 7% being awarded to individual practices.

Among the private companies to make significant gains are Assura, who have won four joint contracts collaborating with local GPs in Coventry, Hartlepool, Bath and North East Somerset and Stockton-on-Tees, and Nestor Primecare, which will run centres in Herefordshire and Cornwall.

Dr Mark Hunt, managing director of Care UK, which is set to run two new centres in Brighton and Hove City PCT and NHS South East Essex, said private sector involvement in the procurement would benefit patients.

‘Care UK has a track record of working with PCTs across the country to provide high quality primary care services,' he said. ‘These walk-in centres provide easy to access care to patients who have traditionally found it difficult to get access to the care they need when they need it.

But the strong performance by private companies comes just days after BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum - who hit the headlines earlier this month when it emerged his own practice had been part of a successful bid for a GP-led health centre in east Yorkshire – pledged to fight the Government's ‘obsession' with the commercialisation of the NHS.

He said: ‘It does strike me as bizarre that at exactly the same time as the Government seems to be taking the banks into public ownership, they are still trying to flog out parts of the NHS to the private sector.

‘The BMA will be continuing its fight against the commercialisation of the NHS and we'll want your support in that fight.'

GP led health centres: a quarter are falling into private hands GP led health centres: a quarter are falling into private hands Polyclinics by PCT

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