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Out-of-hours bidding war

The battle between out-of-hours providers to take on PCO contracts when GPs opt out is intensifying after a GP co-operative was chosen ahead of Primecare to cover 280 GPs.

The verdict by the trusts in Hampshire means Primecare is set to lose 120 GPs using its service to the co-op.

But Primecare has vowed to fight the decision all the way to the Department of Health because of 'serious misgivings' about the way the trusts came to their decision.

The company recently lost out when Guildford and Waverley PCT commissioned Surrey co-op Thamesdoc to take over cover for around 70 GPs in January, despite Primecare making a cheaper bid. As a result, Primecare will withdraw its service from 30 remaining GPs in the Mytchett area on New Year's Eve.

GPs said Primecare was being 'squeezed out', particularly in the South, after losing out in early tendering fights. But the company has stepped up its campaign by writing to every PCT to market its services.

Portsmouth City Teaching, East Hampshire and Fareham and Gosport PCTs chose Havant Doctors on Call as their preferred provider for around 280 GPs.

Primecare medical director Dr Mike Sadler said the company would contest the decision with the Department of Health and the strategic health authority and had 'no plans to withdraw'.

He added: 'We are aware of the decision by the PCTs to use the co-op and we have significant misgivings about the way the decision was reached.'

Dr Sadler confirmed it would withdraw from Mychett because it could not 'mount a solid rota'. The GPs will now join Blackwater Valley Doctors Co-operative Ltd (GP Call).

Dr Mark Hurst, joint professional executive committee chair of Guildford and Waverley PCT, said Thamesdoc had been chosen because it offered a 'more comprehensive service'. He added: 'It seems Primecare are being squeezed out in the south of England.'

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