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OOH providers win a quarter of Darzi contracts

By Gareth Iacobucci

Out-of-hours providers have won a raft of contracts for the new wave of GP-led health centres, in a move that looks set to transform their role as providers of primary care.

Almost a quarter of contracts announced so far, among responses from 90 trusts, have gone to out-of-hours organisations, with both private and not-for-profit providers winning multiple bids.

The tenders also saw the private sector encroach further on primary care, with private companies winning 12 of the 48 contracts announced – one behind the 13 won by GP-led consortiums. Almost half of PCTs missed the Government's 31 December deadline for signing contracts.

Out of hours providers said the awards marked the beginning of a new era of integrated care.

Devon Doctors, a not-for-profit out-of-hours provider in the South West, won three GP-led health centre contracts, in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. In each case the new centres will be based in an existing Devon Doctors centres.

Chris Wright, chief executive of Devon Doctors, said: ‘As long as we're clear contractually what the difference is, it can be advantageous for patient care if the 8 to 8 is co-located with the treatment centre.'

Private out-of-hours provider Harmoni has so far won bids in North Somerset and North East Essex, and is awaiting the results of further procurements.

Medical director Dr David Lloyd said: ‘I think we all accept pure out-of-hours is something we need to get away from and we need to look at integrating systems. If this movement can bring the two together again that can only be a good thing.'

Eight centres were awarded to third sector or not-for-profit organisations, with four going to GPs not in a consortium or partnership.

Five PCTs awarded deals to joint bids from local GPs and their own provider arms, while three awarded contracts to acute trusts.

With so many contracts still up for grabs, the extent to which the private sector strnegthens its grip on primary care is still to be determined.

But Dr Phil Yates, a GP in Kingswood, Gloucestershire, whose practice won the contract for a centre in South Gloucestershire, hailed the number of successful GP-based bids.

He said: ‘Once again, GPs have risen to the challenge and met it full on.'

‘The multi-nationals would have been trying to register patients actively from other local practices. We see this as an opportunity to move towards the RCGP federation model, sharing resources and providing a really good service.'

APMS: Darzi tender wins to date

GP-led consortia - 29%
Independent sector – 27%
Third and voluntary sector – 18%
PCT provider-arm – 11%
GPs not in partnership or consortium – 9%
Acute trusts – 6%

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